The evidence that competing in multiple sports during one’s youth enhances the chances of success at the top level of one continued on Thursday. As in previous years, nearly every selection in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft competed in multiple sports while in high school.
As researched and compiled by Tracking Football, 29 of the 32 players picked in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft played multiple sports in high school. That includes eight of the top 10 selections, starting with former high school baseball star Baker Mayfield at number one.
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Of all 32 players drafted, the most common sport off the gridiron was track & field, no surprise given how it lines up with conditioning and training that carries over to the football field. In all, 22 of the 32 first round selections were former track & field athletes, a whopping 69 percent. That was actually the exact same number as in the 2017 draft’s first round. Basketball was also a notably popular sport, with 16 of the 32 selections having a background on the hardwood.
As in the 2017 first round, the drop off for sport participation was steep after basketball. Four members of the class — Mayfield, fellow quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, and tight end Hayden Hurst — were baseball players. Hurst is the most notable member of the group as a former minor league pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, while Mayfield batted cleanup on a Texas powerhouse squad at Austin Lake Travis.
Meanwhile, there was just one lacrosse player in the group: former Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey. Both Darnold and Allen also played high school basketball, and you can see footage of the new New York Jets quarterback on the hardwood below.
One other outlier flagged for not being a multisport athlete was Josh Rosen, though that may be a bit misleading; while he moved to focus on football in high school, Rosen had an extensive background in tennis as one of the nation’s top-ranked youth players.
Speaking of McGlinchey, he earned the blue ribbon for most eager athlete. In addition to football and lacrosse, McGlinchey also competed in basketball and track & field.
While McGlinchey was the only four-sport athlete, the 2018 class did include 14 three-sport athletes counting McGlinchey, a remarkable rate of 43.75 percent, exactly as in the 2017 first round.
What does all this mean for the success of multisport athletes? It means that while specialization remains the well-marketed rage, it isn’t the most successful approach to future football stardom.