The title of “World’s Greatest Athlete” goes with the territory that decathletes compete within, and that’s where Oregon’s own Ashton Eaton lives.
After winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, Eaton earned the title, especially after setting the world record in the 10-event competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials earlier in the summer.
But, if it weren’t a decathlete, what kind of athlete would be next in line for that title? Eaton recently answered that question for me and he came up with a very unique answer: a defensive end, perhaps just ahead of a running back.
“I’ve always thought they are the most athletic people on the football field,” Eaton wrote in response to the question. “Some of them are as fast, jump higher than, and are stronger than running backs.
“It’s kind of scary if you look at some of their statistics.”
At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Eaton is a perfect size for a decathlete – only an inch shorter and the same competitive weight as Dan O’Brien, who held the world record previously. That makes him more suited to be a running back on a football field, but without the specialty skills needed for events such as the pole vault and high jump, Eaton focused on the combination of power, endurance and overall athleticism. When put together, Eaton, who played football in high school, looked at football players as having the best combination of the three ahead of athletes in such events as the triathlon.
The demands of a defensive end, especially the need for explosive power, made that position stand out, “because those types of athletes would have better chances of being good at basketball, baseball, maybe tennis, weight lifting, track (short stuff and field stuff), compared to an endurance athlete (triathlete) who would most likely excel at endurance activities like biking, distance running, soccer, and swimming.”
In the prime of his career, Jason Taylor, who played defensive end in the NFL for 15 seasons for the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins and New York Jets, would have been a perfect example of Eaton’s combination of talents. Taylor retired with the sixth-most sacks in NFL history and returned six fumbles for touchdowns, which set an NFL record.
Taylor, who is 6-foot-6 and played at around 240 pounds, also finished as runner-up on “Dancing With the Star” during the sixth season of the popular series that airs on ABC.
So, does Eaton see himself giving the NFL a try? It’s something he ponders.
“Sometimes I wonder how good I would be at baseball or football or soccer,” Eaton wrote, “maybe even golf.”