Feb. 13, 2012
Jackie Lapenta, Texas Media Relations
Texas Hall of Honor member and three-time NFL Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf recently enjoyed a return visit to the Austin area as the honorary captain for the U.S. Under-19 National Team in the third annual International Bowl held on February 1 at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex.
The International Bowl works with the International Federation of American Football to bring together athletes from four continents to learn and compete in the game. It is presented by USA Football, the sport’s national governing body in the United States and the official development partner of the NFL.
“It is always great to come to Austin,” Metcalf said. “The way people in Austin, and Texas as a whole, feel about football makes it one of the football meccas of this country. It will give the kids an opportunity to play in an environment that is so great.”
Metcalf became involved with USA Football when Lance Blanks, a former UT basketball player and current general manager of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, presented him with the position to be a spokesperson to these athletes.
“To be involved with and meeting the people of USA Football sounded like a great opportunity,” Metcalf said. “It is great that they are getting people in other countries to learn how we play football over here in the States.”
Metcalf is the ideal candidate for this leadership role because his extensive list of athletic accolades has enriched him with a sense of discipline, hard work ethic and determination.
“I had several people in the past ask me who the best athlete was, and without a doubt in my career it was Eric Metcalf,” former UT head coach David McWilliams said.
Athletic prowess has always been on the forefront of Metcalf’s mind. He grew up with his father, St. Louis Cardinals running back Terry Metcalf, demonstrating that his dream of being a professional football player could be a reality.
“As a kid, you grow up playing in the streets with your friends,” Metcalf recalled. “You act out playing games in the NFL where you make a catch to score a touchdown in the last second. I looked up to my father, who was a professional football player, and when I thought about football all my life, I thought about one day going to the NFL.”
The Arlington, Virginia native enrolled at the University of Texas as a dual athlete in 1985 as a running back for the football team in the fall and a long jumper for track in the winter and spring.
“Football has always been my first love,” Metcalf verified. “However, the opportunity to come to Texas gave me the freedom to do both sports without having to do spring ball during track season. I had a love for both of them.”
Metcalf became an multiple offensive threat on the football field as he racked up receiving, rushing and special teams yardage. He is the only player in Texas history to string together four consecutive seasons leading the team in all-purpose yards.
He was a three-time member of the All-SWC Team and the 1987 SWC Offensive Player of the Year. However, his true calling came on special teams where he ranks second in Longhorns history for career punt return yardage (1,076) and punt returns (101).
“He was so special because of how versatile he was,” McWilliams said. “He returned punts, he could catch the ball and return kick-offs. He could cut so fast you didn’t know what was happening and people were missing him.”
“On top of it, he was really fun to coach. He always had a smile on his face and was always willing to work hard. I am proud of what he has done with himself and how much he has given back to the University of Texas.”
Metcalf was able to turn his successful intercollegiate pursuit into a 13-year professional career after being selected in the first round (13th overall) by the Cleveland Browns in the 1989 NFL Draft.
He held the NFL career record for most punt returns for touchdowns at 10 until that record was broken this past season by Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Hester.
“We all love to have records,” Metcalf said. “Records are meant to be broken and as long as you had it at one point you can say, ‘I did this,’ and I am fine with that. I just like to see young athletes go out there and compete at a high level and accomplish everything that they want to.”
Metcalf’s football honors speak higher upon learning that he also achieved as much success on the track. He earned the distinction of being a four-time All-American and the two-time Outdoor Long Jump National Champion in 1986 and 1988.
Metcalf set both the University of Texas Indoor Long Jump and Outdoor Long Jump records at 26-0 and 27- 8 ¼, respectively. He held the indoor long jump record for 25 years until a current student-athlete who understands Metcalf’s feats all too well, Longhorn wide receiver and long jumper Marquise Goodwin, broke the record by 8 and half inches.
"It's pretty unique both of us being football players and long jumpers," Goodwin said. "You don't come across those too often. Having the opportunity to be here at Texas and sort of follow in his footsteps is an honor."
“[I sent him a text after that said], ‘It’s about time,’” Metcalf recalled. “I always told him that he was going to break it. He is a great kid, and he works hard. I think if anyone breaks my records, I would love if he broke all of them.”
With Goodwin enduring the same hardships of being a two-sport athlete, Metcalf has served as a mentor to the young star, much in a way that he will do for the players of USA Football.
“When you play football, as soon as the bowl or the break is over you go straight into track,” Metcalf explained. “The difficult part is when you start getting into shape for indoor track, you are behind everybody who is solely a track athlete. By the time a football player’s track legs get under him, it is all the way into the outdoor season where everyone else has been training for months.”
“I try to tell him that he is one of the best long jumpers in the country, as well as one of the best football players, and we have a great relationship.”
Apart from the physical stress that participating in two sports causes, most people do not realize the mental strain it can also induce from the different natures of the games.
“With football, you [have a set schedule], but during the track season you are always travelling,” Metcalf said. “There might be meets that are two days [straight] or you might leave on Thursdays and come back Sundays. You always have to make that work wherever you are, as far as school and being able to travel and compete at a high level. It is tough if you don’t have discipline.”
The biggest piece of advice that Metcalf has been able to give Goodwin is to seize the opportunity that he has in front of him.
“I remember when I was in school and I went to the Olympic Trials in 1988… I wish I had made that team and gone to the Olympics,” Metcalf recalled.
“You don’t get many opportunities like that. I tell him, ‘You don’t want to look back and say, I should have competed hard. I should have gone out there and gave it my all and tried to make the Olympic team.’ He has the opportunity to do that now and I hope he makes it.”
Metcalf’s name is still etched into the record books on the Forty Acres’ campus with his outdoor long jump record. When he set this record in 1988, it was at the time, the 8th-best jump ever and fourth best in U.S. history.
“Marquise still has to get the outdoor record, and I think he will,” Metcalf said. “I would love for him to do that.”