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Marquise Goodwin says competing in two sports 'is a gift'

Marquise Goodwin competed in the 2012 London Olympics before being drafted by the Buffalo Bills the following year. Franck Fife/AFP/GettyImages

TORONTO -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin can jump so far that he could almost leap from the 10-yard line all the way into the end zone.

"My teammates give me a hard time about that all the time," Goodwin told ESPN.com. "'Hey, if you catch the ball and get in an open field, I want you to long jump from the 10 into the end zone.' ... I might make it happen one of these days."

It would certainly make for a great end zone celebration video.

"I've got to get into the end zone with the ball first," he said Tuesday. "I've seen so many celebrations where the ball doesn't make it to the end zone. I have to make sure that ball crosses the line first."

Goodwin was talking at the Pan Am Games, where he qualified for Wednesday's long jump finals by leaping 8.05 meters (26 feet, 5 inches), second best to U.S. jumper Jeffrey Henderson (8.18, or 26 feet, 10 inches).

While some might know him better for his football career these days, Goodwin has had an impressive and lengthy career as a long jumper. He started jumping at age 9 and was a two-time NCAA champion at the University of Texas. He finished 10th in the 2012 Olympics, though his personal-best jump of 8.33 (27 feet, 4 inches) at the U.S. trials the previous month would have been long enough to take gold in London.

Drafted by the Bills in 2013, Goodwin didn't return to long jumping until just two months ago after an injury-filled NFL season. What prompted the return, he said, was a pickup basketball game.

"I went to dunk and thought, 'Dang, I still feel like I have a little juice in the tank. I still feel like I can jump,' even without training that much," he said. "So I thought if I trained a couple weeks maybe I could give it a shot."

Despite the layoff from long jumping and the many hits his body has taken in football (he had concussion, rib and hamstring injuries last season), Goodwin jumped well enough to finish fourth at the U.S. outdoor championships last month, and has a good chance to medal Wednesday.

Goodwin says training for the long jump not only keeps him from sitting on the couch eating potato chips, but it also improves him as a receiver because it helps maintain his explosiveness and helps him make more precise cuts while running routes. Plus, he enjoys long jumping.

"I like track and field for the simple reason that I determine my own outcome," he said. "I don't rely on my coach or the president or the CEO making a decision. I'm kind of like the CEO of my own corporation. I make the calls on if I'm going to be here or going to be there, as opposed to football where other people are making that decision. Other people are in charge of how much you play and what plays you get. In that aspect, I like that about long jumping.

"Plus, I like that I don't get hit."

The timing of the Pan Am Games and their location -- Toronto is about a 100-mile drive from Buffalo and has been home to several Bills games -- make competing here relatively convenient for a football player's schedule. Competing in next summer's Olympics, which will be in Rio de Janeiro in the middle of training camp, will be a much different matter.

"That's a little tricky. I have obligations to fulfill as a Buffalo Bill, and to my contract," said Goodwin, who probably will be fighting for a roster spot with the Bills this year. "I don't want to step on anybody's toes. If I finish the season healthy and do everything I'm supposed to do on the field and produce, hopefully it won't be an issue. Maybe they'll encourage me to do it to represent the team. Not just USA Track and Field, but also the Buffalo Bills."

While some consider Goodwin a football player and others consider him a long jumper, he says he is simply an athlete. More importantly, an athlete who wants to take full advantage of his body given that his younger sister, Deja, was born with cerebral palsy and has never been able to walk.

"She definitely drives me and keeps me motivated," he said. "I wouldn't want to be at home wasting my talents knowing that she's never walked a day in her life. If she had one day, one opportunity, she wouldn't be sitting there eating potato chips on the couch. I have to put that in perspective and continue to use that as a driving force for me to continue to work and continue to get better."

"It is a gift," he says of his two-sport abilities. "I'm just trying to use that gift."