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Jahvid Best, former Detroit Lions RB, named to Saint Lucia Olympic team

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By Nick Zaccardi and Seth Rubinroit

Former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best has been submitted and approved for Saint Lucia’s Olympic track and field team and is set to become the first person with previous NFL experience to compete in a Summer Games.

“Above all else I’m excited to get out there and make my country and family proud,” Best said in a statement to NBC Olympics.

Best, a former California high school sprinter with a Saint Lucian father who holds dual citizenship, was a 2010 first-round draft pick whose football career was cut short after two seasons due to concussions.

He has been doing sprint training at the Altis center in Arizona, home of many elite Olympic athletes, for at least one year.

Best registered on the Olympic radar on April 2, when he ran a personal-best 10.16 seconds for the 100m with nearly the maximum allowable legal tailwind (1.9 meters/second) at a small meet in California.

That met the Olympic qualifying standard of 10.16 seconds or faster (on the dot), but the IAAF must also recognize the results as official.

The small meet’s director said in May they hadn’t considered sending results to the IAAF to be recognized. In June, after the director learned Best had run an Olympic qualifying time at the meet, those results finally appeared on Best’s IAAF profile.

But Best was still an American runner up until this week, though never in international competition, which was key to him being able to represent Saint Lucia in Rio.

He did not compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where he would not have made the Olympic team as the U.S. has several sprinters who are faster.

But Saint Lucia does not have faster sprinters. Best’s Saint Lucia representation issues were solved, clearing the way for him to compete in Rio.

“This is a huge accomplishment for me, but at the same time this is just the beginning,” Best said. “I have only been in this sport for two years professionally, and plan on being around for a long time.”

Saint Lucia, a Caribbean island that debuted at the Olympics in 1996, has never sent more than six athletes to an Olympics and never earned a medal, according to sports-reference.com.

Best, given he hasn’t improved on that 10.16, would be fortunate to make the Olympic 100m semifinals.

About 40 NFL players have competed in the Olympics, but almost all of them have done so before playing their first regular-season game.

One athlete with prior NFL regular-season experience has competed at the Olympics, but it was at the Winter Games — 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker in bobsled at Albertville 1992.

Another NFL player could join Best in Rio. New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner is a candidate for the U.S. Olympic rugby team expected to be named any day now.

Three other athletes with NFL experience failed to make Rio Olympic teams.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin finished seventh in the long jump at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on July 3. Goodwin, who finished 10th at the London Olympics before starting his NFL career, came into the meet with the two best jumps in the world for the year but strained a hamstring in qualifying at Trials. 

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts return specialist Jeff Demps was eliminated in the first round of the 100m at the Olympic Track and Field Trials. Demps was a member of the U.S. 4x100m relay team at London 2012, taking a silver medal that later had to be returned due to teammate Tyson Gay‘s doping.

Former San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne made a quixotic bid for the world’s best rugby sevens team — Fiji — but did not make the final 12-man roster.

MORE: Marquise Goodwin, Buffalo Bills WR, misses U.S. Olympic team

Record number of NFL players could compete at Rio Olympics

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In Olympic history, one athlete with prior NFL regular-season experience is believed to have competed at the Games — Herschel Walker in bobsled at the Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics.

That number will very likely increase this summer.

At least five athletes who have played in the NFL are in the mix for Olympic spots between two sports — track and field and rugby.

If all five make it to the Olympics, they will break the record for NFL players at one Olympics, believed by Olympic historians to be the four at the Rome 1960 Games.

All four of those 1960 athletes, and all other NFL Olympians other than Walker, competed at the Games before they became NFL players.

Which makes this year’s crop all the more special:

Buffalo Bills wide receiver/long jumper Marquise Goodwin is the likeliest to qualify for Rio. He finished 10th at the London 2012 Games before playing in the NFL, took nearly three years off from long jumping and returned last year.

On Saturday, Goodwin leaped 8.45 meters, the farthest in the world this year. Goodwin will make his second Olympic team if he finishes in the top three at the U.S. Olympic Trials on July 3 in Eugene, Ore.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts return specialist Jeff Demps could also make his second Olympic track and field team. Demps, a 4x100m relay member in London, is sprinting for the first time in three years.

Demps ranks tied for seventh among U.S. men in the 100m this year. It’s likely the top six at the U.S. Olympic Trials, also on July 3, will be named to the Olympic 4x100m relay pool.

Then there’s former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best, who is reportedly trying to make the Saint Lucia Olympic track and field team in the 100m. Best’s status is complicated by a citizenship process.

In rugby, New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner is going for the U.S. Olympic team. It was reported last month the head coach said Ebner had a “50-50” chance of making it.

A key will be whether Ebner is named to the 12-man U.S. team for this week’s World Series final leg in London. The Olympic team, which will be named some time after London, will also be 12 men.

Finally on Sunday, San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne announced his abrupt retirement from the NFL to pursue a place on Fiji’s Olympic rugby team.

That news was stunning, given Fiji is about to clinch its second straight World Series title and doesn’t appear to be in need of outside help given its World Series success.

MORE: Cam Newton’s show on Nickelodeon features several Olympic champions

Carlin Isles not giving up on Rio 2016 Olympics after signing with Detroit Lions

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Carlin Isles spent part of Thursday and Friday reassuring rugby fans on Twitter that he was not giving up the sport.

The concern was very real when Isles, one of USA Rugby’s star sevens players, signed with the Detroit Lions as a practice squad wide receiver.

The U.S. sevens team hasn’t played since Dec. 8 and won’t play again until a Las Vegas tournament Jan. 24-26. The Lions missed out on the playoffs (again), so he may not miss a single game for the red, white and blue.

Rugby sevens makes its Olympic debut in 2016. Isles, dubbed the fastest man in American rugby, still plans to be there.

“2016 is a big deal for me,” Isles said, according to MLive.com. “That’s a goal of mine, but playing in the NFL is a blessing, too.”

Lions coach Jim Schwartz did his research on track and field stars turned NFL players, citing San Francisco 49ers defensive end/2012 Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye and sprinters turned wide receivers Bob HayesRenaldo Nehemiah and Trindon Holliday.

Isles, 24, has a sprinting background, too. He ran and played football at Division II Ashland University in Ohio, clocking a personal best of 10.24 seconds in the 100m and a wind-aided 10.13.

“I don’t want to compare him to, but if you want to develop one of those guys you have to give some guys a chance here or there and this was an opportunity to be able to do that because of the way our roster is and bringing some of the guys up that we have, we have a spot open,” Schwartz told reporters.

Isles reportedly ran a 4.22-second 40-yard dash in an out-of-the-blue tryout earlier this week. The NFL Draft combine record, since electronic timing began in 1999, is 4.24 seconds.

“4.2 to me is jogging,” Isles said, according to MLive.com. “I can go 4.1 all day.”

He had later tryouts planned with the Colts and Giants before the Lions scooped him up, according to the Detroit News.

At 5-foot-8 and some 160 pounds, Isles is one of the smaller receivers around the league. Can his body take the beating?

“You see rugby?” he said, according to the newspaper. “I can take the pounding for football without a doubt. I am tough and tenacious — the pounding will be no problem.”

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