TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Get Jalen Ramsey talking about his other sport, the one he squeezes in around football and does about as well as anybody in the country, and it’s apparent the long jump is not just a way for Florida State’s gifted defensive back to stay in shape.
Ramsey started as a freshman for college football’s national champions, and he was the best defender on a playoff team as a sophomore last season. He is a future first-round draft pick with All-Pro potential, but before he gets there he wants to make a detour to Brazil.
"I love track, without a doubt," Ramsey said. "Just like I have football dreams, I have track dreams. Rio’s up next year. The Olympics, that’s something that’s always on my mind. It’s definitely a real possibility."
The NCAA outdoor track and field championships are next week in Eugene, Oregon, and Ramsey will be there trying to improve on his fourth-place finish at the indoor championships in January. His top jump of 26 feet, 1 3/4 inches is third-best in school history.
"He’s just an incredible, talented guy," Florida State track and field coach Bob Braman said. "He’s a great competitor. He wants to win. He doesn’t limit himself by saying, `Oh, I’ve only had two days of practice, twice a week for three weeks. These other guys are out there practicing every day.’ He doesn’t limit himself that way. He thinks he should win."
Ramsey set a Tennessee state record for the long jump in high school and won a state title in the decathlon.
Still, he looks at himself as an unpolished athlete when it comes to track and field.
"Honestly, I’m jumping now just off my explosiveness and God-given abilities," Ramsey said. "When I really master my technique and get the technique down of landing in the sand and getting off the board the correct way, that will extend my jumps."
Braman credits jump coach Dennis Nobles for getting the most out of Ramsey’s limited repetitions. He considers competing in the Olympic trials as an attainable goal for the rising junior. And once he gets there, why not Rio?
Of course, the reality is track and field might not fit into an elite football player’s schedule.
Ramsey talks about making a run at Rio, where the 2016 Games will be held Aug. 5-21, while heading into his senior year at Florida State.
Couple of potential problems with that:
–If Ramsey is still at Florida State, it means he would miss a chunk of preseason practice.
–If Ramsey were to make 2015 his last college football season, a distinct possibility for the 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback, he will need an NFL team’s permission to skip much of training camp and other offseason activities.
He might be worth the wait.
Ramsey came to Florida State as a five-star cornerback recruit, a player who seemed destined to extend the Seminoles’ tradition of lockdown corners that goes back to Deion Sanders and Terrell Buckley.
But he played safety out of necessity as a freshman and last year moved to the "Star" position, a do-it-all hybrid of linebacker and defensive back. Playing on a defense that struggled with injuries and inexperience, Ramsey was Florida State’s most consistent playmaker and a second-team All-American in 2014.
This season, it’s back to cornerback, though in some ways it is as if Ramsey never left.
"It’s just like riding a bike," he said. "That’s my natural position."
Ramsey’s first few days back on the bike were bumpy.
"The first week of spring wasn’t my best week of football ever," Ramsey said, acknowledging that Florida State’s receivers got the best of him in practice.
"When you’re at Star or at safety, you kind of have to overlook the whole defense. Have to make sure everyone’s in the right spot, and things like that. When you switch to corner you really have to focus on your man. The biggest thing for me was focusing back up. Focusing my eyes. Just getting right with my technique."
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he isn’t concerned that moving Ramsey back to corner will limit how much he can affect a game.
"How much impact did Deion have?" said Fisher, recalling how Sanders could practically take one side of the field away from an opposing offense. "When you have big-time corners, that frees other guys up and makes them better."
As for those Olympic dreams, the logistics seem difficult, but Braman sees no reason to doubt Ramsey.
"He’s that kind of guy," Braman said. "He may do something nobody has ever done."