From corporate giants to souvenir hawkers, everybody wants a piece of the Super Bowl. So why not the Millrose Games, which on Friday night will spice its usual indoor track and field business with a 60-meter dash featuring five former participants in the NFL’s marquee event?
Organizers are calling the race the Super LX, which not only will prove that there is life after pro football — one participant, Willie Gault, is now 49 years old — but also that the pigskin sport has clearly been enriched by track’s dashing stars.
Millrose officials readily admit to being “killed” by Super Bowl publicity in the media just when they are trying to get attention for the meet, which is celebrating its 103rd year. The Super LX is an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” endeavor, plopped in among 41 other throwing, running and jumping events.
The lineup consists of Gault, who starred at wide receiver in the Chicago Bears’ 1986 Super Bowl victory (and, not insignificantly, organized the Bears’ wacky “Super Bowl Shuffle”); one-time Jet Tim Dwight, whose 1999 Super Bowl moment was a game-opening 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for Atlanta; Anthony Dorsett Jr., who played defensive back in Super Bowls for both Oakland and Tennessee; Phillip Buchanon, the still-active Detroit cornerback who played in the 2003 Super Bowl with Oakland; and Ryan Lacasse, a defensive end with Indianapolis in the ‘07 Super Bowl.
Despite a wide disparity in age — after the almost-senior Gault, Dorsett is 36, Dwight 34, Buchanon 29 and Lacasse 26 — one Millrose official predicted the race could result in a five-man dead heat, the kind of startling finish that would threaten to knock a hole in the Madison Square Garden wall that awaits sprinters only yards from the finish line.
Beyond their football resumes, all five men bring hefty track credentials to the event. Gault, who also was an Olympic bobsledder in 1988 and was famous for dabbling in ballet, was a hurdling and relay medalist at the 1983 world championships (and qualified for the 1980 Olympics boycotted by the Carter administration). Dwight was a Big Ten sprint champion at Iowa, Dorsett a member of record-setting relay teams at Pitt, Buchanon and Lacasse high school sprint stars.
Though only one man in history has won both a Super Bowl ring and an Olympic gold medal — the late Bob Hayes, 100-meter champion at the 1964 Tokyo Games and an all-pro receiver with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s — football and track long have been compatible speed-and-power sports.
“To me,” said Gault, who has continued to compete in age-group meets and appeared with Dwight in Manhattan on Wednesday to pitch Friday’s event, “track is the purest of all sports. I just love it. It’s just you against the clock, you against yourself.” Dwight, too, professed a special fondness for the sport originally introduced to him by his father, who was a track coach. Since retiring from football after the ‘07 seasons, he has been dabbling in triathlons and even completed a marathon (4 hours, 24 minutes).
And, while both assured a keen interest in next week’s big football game — Gault is picking Indianapolis, Dwight is going for New Orleans — neither expressed a desire to join the Colts and Saints on the playing field in Miami.
“No, thanks,” Dwight said.
“Football was great when it was there,” Gault said. “But it’s the beginning of the end for all of us. You can’t do it forever. Running, though, you can do that till you’re 90.”
Dwight, obviously fit but admitting that he hadn’t “been in the blocks” for a sprint race “in 13 years” until a test race two weeks ago, allowed that running the dash again — without the aid of a blocking wedge or the nuances of a pass pattern — “felt all loose and all over the place. Not efficient. But training again, it’s coming along.”