RIO DE JANEIRO -- Three days after the Oregon football team reported for camp in Eugene, wide receiver Devon Allen was making his first appearance in Rio as a member of the U.S. track team. But the questions being tossed his way had little to do with the 110 hurdles.
When asked by a British journalist if he believed more athletes in his situation would choose track over football because of the focus on head injuries in football, Allen acknowledged it was possible, but he said that he will continue to pursue both sports after college. When asked if the perception that American football is responsible for stealing the best athletes from track and field is accurate, Allen again said yes.
"It's a good argument," he said. "American football is definitely more lucrative for great athletes. There's a lot of football players I've been around who would be great track athletes, but they choose a different path. If I was born in Europe, I'd probably be a soccer player because that's the popular sport there. A lot of U.S. athletes who are explosive and fast end up playing football because that's the most popular sport and it's a sport where people can see their future, make some money in and live."
Yet, track and field is gaining on America's No. 1 sport, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations' annual High School Athletics Participation Survey, which was released Wednesday. According to the report, last year track and field logged the biggest increase for both boys and girls, was the No. 1 sport for girls and remained the No. 2 sport for boys, behind football.
"Whether or not that can be traced to anything else, it is still the fastest-growing and No. 1 sport in the United States for participation among young people," said Jill Geer, chief public affairs officer for USA Track & Field.
"Any smart athlete considers his options," Allen said. "Right now I'm considering doing both. There aren't many dual-sport athletes currently, aside from Marquise Goodman, who's a long jumper in the U.S. and plays wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills, but I think that's something possible for me in the future. I still have a year left in college. Once I'm done with school, I can decide."
Allen said he'd spoken with compliance at Oregon about his options for his senior season.
"I can go pro in track and field as long as I don't sign a shoe endorsement, because the endorsement covers my likeness as an athlete and the NCAA owns my likeness as an athlete for my time in college," he said. "I can compete in all the meets I want to professionally and win prize money and still play football. I just don't know if I'd compete wearing an Oregon uniform or a T-shirt."