NEW YORK -- Asafa Powell isn't the only one who wants a
piece of Justin Gatlin. The Philadelphia Eagles do, too.
Gatlin's agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, said Thursday the Eagles have
made several inquiries the last three weeks to see if his client
was interested in playing football. But Gatlin has only one summer
plan: a long-anticipated race with Powell in a matchup between the
two 100-meter world-record holders.
Nehemiah, who played in the NFL for four seasons in the 1980s
after starring in the hurdles, said the Eagles have left phone
messages and sent e-mails to him about Gatlin.
Eagles spokesman Derek Boyko said he was unaware of the team's
interest, and it was club policy not to comment on any potential
The Eagles are desperate for a receiver and kickoff returner. Of
course, they already drafted one Olympian this year, taking
freestyle skier Jeremy Bloom in the fifth round to return kicks.
Though Nehemiah knows the temptation of playing in the NFL, he
has no plans to return the Eagles' calls and mentioned the topic to
Gatlin only in passing.
"Football isn't a necessity" for Gatlin, Nehemiah said.
Gatlin, who won Olympic gold in the 100 in Athens, last played
football some nine years ago, after quitting his high school team
in 10th grade after a dispute with his coach.
"He's doing well enough he doesn't need it," Nehemiah said.
Of more importance to Gatlin and Nehemiah is the showdown with
Powell. Gatlin and Powell raced in separate 100 heats last week at
the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., and a potential race in
Gateshead, England, on June 11 fell through.
This week, Gatlin is in New York for the Reebok Grand Prix,
while Powell will race in the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway.
Nehemiah hopes the two will be able to race by the end of July.
"It obviously has to do with more than just track and field,
dealing with the head to head, financial reasons and the venue as
well, dealing with the weather," Gatlin said. The competitive side
doesn't care, I want to go out there and run. But the smart,
business side of me knows this is something special. This doesn't
happen all the time in track and field. So I want to make sure when
it's done, I want it done right."
Nehemiah has been in constant communication with Powell's
representatives and has been getting dozens of calls from meet
directors around the world wanting to host the showdown.
As of now, the only meet the two are scheduled in together is
July 28 in London. But Nehemiah wants the matchup to be set before
then. Neither has a race scheduled between July 14 and the London
meet, so possibilities include Stockholm on July 25 or Helsinki on
July 26. If nothing can be worked out, then London would be the
"They're going to race. That's no doubt in my mind," Nehemiah
said. "Unfortunately, it's become bigger than I wanted it to
become, and so we're inundated with so many people jockeying for
that first race."
Gatlin, who tied Powell's mark of 9.77 seconds in Doha three
weeks ago, said the meeting would be worth the wait.
"I want to make sure Asafa's at his A-game. I don't want
excuses for a win or for a loss," Gatlin said. "I want to make
sure we're both 100 percent and may the best man win when we go out
there. For the fans, I think: give it some time and everything will
be OK. They'll understand by the time we get to the line and we're
head-to-head that everyone will enjoy the race and everyone will be