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David Wilson well short of personal best in triple jump in pro debut

NEW YORK -- David Wilson knew he looked like a football player lined up alongside the rest of the triple jumpers at the Adidas Grand Prix.

At 196 pounds, he dwarfed the competition -- and felt that weight on his jumps.

The former New York Giants running back came up well short of his personal best Saturday in his first professional track and field meet. Wilson plans to jump again Sunday as he tries to qualify for the U.S. championships.

Wilson jumped 48 feet, 1¼ inches Saturday; he had posted a wind-aided 53-1¾ in college. He last competed in 2011, when he finished sixth at the NCAA meet for Virginia Tech.

Wilson took to Twitter after the meet and expressed his disappointment with the results.

Because of a hamstring injury, Wilson hadn't tried a full 12-step approach in practice. He assumed that going full speed would allow him to jump farther, but instead it just reminded him he needs to lose more weight. Saturday's experience was a physics lesson: When he made his initial hop, the extra momentum slowed him down because he could sense those extra pounds more.

"All the speed I had built up stopped," he said, adding that he didn't feel in control of the jump.

So Wilson plans to return to eight steps Sunday, the most he has done in practice, when he has jumped 51 feet. He had been hoping for a jump of at least 53-9 on Saturday.

Cuba's Pedro Pablo Pichardo won with a jump of 57-7½.

A state champion triple jumper in high school, Wilson could never devote much time to track and field in college because of his football commitments. But after a serious neck injury forced the former first-round draft pick to retire from the NFL at age 23 in August, he decided to give the triple jump another try.

His goal is to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, hopeful he can make major improvements now that he is dedicated to track full time.

As a rookie in 2012, Wilson led the NFL with a franchise-record 1,533 kickoff return yards. But he was hurt five games into his second season, when an MRI showed that Wilson had a narrowing of the spinal cord. He underwent surgery and returned for training camp.

But during a drill, Wilson caught a pass, put his head down and ran into the back of an offensive lineman. That hit caused numbness in his hands and lower extremities.

Doctors agreed it would be best for Wilson to quit football. Triple jumping poses no risk because there is no contact.

Wilson played at about 210 pounds, but now he is competing against rivals in the 140-170 range. He had gotten as low as 189 and hopes to reach 180-185 pounds to improve on Saturday's debut.

"I wasn't proud the way I performed," he said. "But it was a good experience because I got my feet wet in a professional atmosphere, and now next time when I do get right in training, do get down to the weight I want to be, do get my technique perfect, I'll be knowing what to expect."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.