Aja Evans. Lolo Jones. Ryan Bailey. They all have one thing in common: they took their skills from the track to the bobsled slope. The 2018 U.S. bobsled team is stocked with former track stars (see Evans, Bailey and Chris Kinney), but another squad member is crossing over from another sport -- Sam McGuffie got his start on the football field.
McGuffie, who’s high school football reel is filled with outlandish highlights, played collegiately at the University of Michigan and Rice University, and was signed by the Oakland Raiders in 2013. He was subsequently waived, but had stints on the practice squad for the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots. The bobsled was calling his name, though. By 2015, he was a member of the USA Bobsled National Team.
He will be on both the two-man and four-man bobsled teams for Team USA starting February 18 as a crewman for pilot Codie Bascue. He’s not the only former football player on the roster -- Carlo Valdez played at UCLA. But McGuffie player has been turning heads within the bobsled community in the lead up to PyeongChang thanks to his athleticism -- and it seems he’s a perfect fit for the sledding world.
“He insanely gifted,” Bascue said. “He is also the most natural athlete I have ever seen.”
McGuffie has been showing off that athleticism since he was hurdling would-be tacklers on the football field not that long ago. He knows his quickness that he honed in football is a good thing. “When you are a running back,” he told reporters on a conference call in January, “you have to explode through the hole. That’s what I do in bobsled.”
“He’s like a cheetah,” U.S. bobsled head coach Brian Shimer said. “He just steps up and is about as explosive of a guy as I’ve ever seen.”
McGuffie is even drawing comparisons to one of bobsled’s biggest stars: Aja Evans. In fact, the Olympic bronze medalist compared McGuffie to herself. “I feel like he is the male version of me with his explosiveness and dynamic power,” she said. “To watch him do so many things with that pop and power is pretty cool.”
Like Evans, who was a five-time All-American on the track for the University of Illinois, McGuffie was on the track team in college, too. While football was his specialty, he competed in everything from the 60-meter hurdles to the pole vault. He’s hoping he can be like her on one more way, too: by winning an Olympic medal. Team USA won four medals in the bobsled in Sochi, three bronze and one silver.
No matter the result, McGuffie is already looking to the future, and how he could possibly make another team -- this time in the 2020 Summer Games in rugby. “The next Summer Games is in Tokyo,” he said. “It would be kinda cool if I can do that.”
It wouldn’t be a surprise to his bobsled brethren.
“We are glad that we can have him,” Valdes said. “He definitely still has NFL potential if he still wanted to do that. Or if he wanted to do something else, he would probably be good at that, too. Like rugby.”
Seth Rubinroit contributed reporting to this story.