For Jarred Houston, balancing two sports with schoolwork and a social life is all part of the routine schedule he has juggled for the past eight years.
In fact, the recreation, parks and tourism administration senior has lived the life of a two-sport athlete since his freshman year of high school, when he first started playing football and joined track and field.
Houston began his football career in high school because his mom, who was worried about the potential for injury, would not let him play any sooner.
“My mom said, ‘Don’t break bones before high school,’ and then when I started in high school, I broke bones,” Houston said.
The split kneecap, dislocated jaw and broken fingers did not discourage him from track or football, though. His passion for both sports resulted in unwavering consistency and dedication.
While many other students look forward to the sunshine and beach days that spring quarter offers, it is perhaps the busiest time of the year for athletes such as Houston — spring football and the track season occur simultaneously.
“I have football practice Mondays and Wednesdays, track practice Tuesdays and Thursdays, then track meets on Saturdays,” Houston said. “So it’s all back-to-back, with weight lifting somewhere in between.
Despite the time and energy he commits to track and field, Houston said he can’t deny football is his main focus.
“The way I see it, football is my wife and track is my mistress,” Houston said. “Football is what I came to college for. I love the physicality of it and how every play can be a big play.”
Houston currently plays wide receiver. He was moved from slotback position last year.
“We hope that as (a) wide receiver, we get the best out of him this year,” football head coach Tim Walsh said. “It’s obvious that Jarred is a very talented athlete, and I think between playing both sports, he pulls the best out of both of them. He’s got tremendous talent.”
Walsh said whether multiple-sports playing is encouraged to Cal Poly students depends on the athlete and their ability to manage their time and energy.
“It’s more about giving students the opportunity to pursue their dreams, both athletically and academically,” Walsh said. “We’re not supposed to tell them they can’t do it. Our job is to allow young people to achieve their dreams.”
Houston and Walsh both agree that pursing track and football has been only beneficial for Houston’s overall athletic performance.
Houston said he works “extra hard” during spring football to make up for the practices he misses due to track, yet also reaps the benefits of the speed and conditioning he gains while training for his 100-meter, 400-meter and 1600-meter relay races.
Track head coach Mark Conover views the situation the other way around, commenting on football’s impact on the runner’s performances.
“I’m thankful football players can enhance the track and field team,” Conover said. “With their ballistics and their strength, it can be a very good crossover.”
Conover said it was more typical for track and field athletes to play football than other sports, citing Korben Boaz, who is a thrower for track and field as well as a football player, as another example of a two-sport success.
“Being a contributor to more than one Cal Poly sport is enhancing the athlete’s overall Cal Poly experience,” Conover said. “As long as the person is able to successfully manage their academic load with their athletics.”
Houston has proven his ability to do so. The two-sport athlete somehow manages to also find time for playing chess (his “hidden talent”) with the elderly, working on underground rap albums and practicing his karate (he’s a black belt) in preparation for Avatar 2 stunt double auditions.
Houston will graduate next year and plans to pursue a career in sports media and marketing.