Jahvid Best is a former American football running back of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He played college football at University of California, setting several school records, including most all-purpose yards in a single season and most rushing yards in a single game. Jahvid also led the Pac-10 in total rushing yards in 2008. He is now a professional track and field athlete specializing in the 100m and 200m events. He was a standout track athlete in high school for both events, ranked as one of the best high school athletes in the country, respectfully.
What’s your story?
My story would have to start from my earliest memories, as child around 5 or 6, I remember my dad and I turning our living room into sporting arena’s from a boxing arena, to a basketball court, to a baseball stadium, our living room transformed into all kinds of sports venues. I would get home from school and have about 4 hours before my dad would come home from work, so I’d use that time to knock out my homework and start practicing. We mostly played the sport that was in current season, so I’d practice nonstop waiting for him to come home so I could show him that I got better and that I could maybe beat him one day! From that I learned how to be competitive and have a drive to want to get better at something. For me that was where it all started, sports were the biggest part of my life and it’s when I really started to fall in love with sports and that love is still with me today.
So, fast forward a little bit. I always wanted to play football but my mother wouldn’t let me play because she felt that I was too small and that I could get hurt. So, I couldn’t play football until I was in high school. When I was in 9th grade I went out for my high school football team, I played all of 4 games before I broke my wrist. Since I injured my wrist I couldn’t play for the rest of the year and my mom got the pleasure of saying I told you so. Although I was disappointed, it wasn’t that bad because at the time my favorite sport was basketball and I also ran track. So, I still was able to continue to play sports. I actually started running track when I was 7 years old but I never took it seriously. With football out of the way, I turned my attention to basketball. That year I played Junior Varsity basketball and ran track. I would have to say, I was just a normal above average athlete and I wasn’t anything special… yet. My sophomore year, I went out for football again despite my mother’s hesitation. I played the running back for the varsity football team and actually became a starter. That year something happened and football just clicked for me. I ended up rushing for 1500 yards and I had a really good year in football!!!
The summer after my sophomore year, I ran AAU track and began practicing with the AAU coaches and athletes. Seeing how seriously they took track made me take it seriously too and the results were phenomenal! I dropped a lot of time that summer and I ended up winning the 200m at the Junior Olympics. That was when I realized that track could be serious too. As a result, my junior year I stopped playing basketball and started focusing on track and football. My senior year was my best year in both sports. I broke the Bay Area record for rushing and had 48 touchdowns! And in track I won the State Championships in the 100m and took second in the 200m. Throughout this whole period I started getting scholarship offers. I decided I wanted to do both football and track in college but the NCAA has a rule saying that an athlete that takes a track scholarship cannot play football for 2 years. So, I decided to accept a football scholarship from University of California in 2009 with the intentions of walking on to the track team.
My first football season, 2007, at Cal went pretty well but at the end of the season I suffered a hip injury and I wasn’t able to run track in the spring. I was disappointed but just figured I’d run my sophomore year. However, my sophomore year, I became a starter in football and had a breakout season! After the great season, I decided to put all my eggs in one basket and put all my focus on football. My junior year, 2009, was another great season for me! I was even a Heisman Trophy Candidate but during a game I was hit hard and received a concussion that ended my season. In 2010, I had to make a decision on whether I wanted to compete another season at Cal or take my chances in the draft. After talking with my family, we decided to take a chance at the draft. I left college as a junior and went to the combine. I was nervous but confident and I ended up being the fastest running back at the combine that year. I got drafted 30th as a first round pick to the Detroit Lions and my sister became my manager! My first year, I was the first month ‘Rookie of the Month’ and was in and out of the starting line up. My second year in the league was going pretty good as well but unfortunately, I suffered another concussion. My third year, 2013, after consulting doctors and my family, I decided not to return to the NFL because of my injury.
This was the roughest patch of my life, I thought I was going to be playing football for a lot longer so I wasn’t prepared for my next steps. I also had been playing sports my whole life so the transition into normal life was rough. I had to figure out what to do next and the most logical thing for me was to finish my degree. So, I went back to school in the fall of 2014, and I interned as an assistant running back coach with the football team. Working with the team just made me want to be an athlete again. It was great to still be apart of the sport I loved but I still had the drive and will to compete. One day, one of the football players suggested I run track but I kind of blew it off thinking my track days were behind me. Shortly after, one of my friends noticed how athletic I still was and suggested I run. Then ironically enough, one day my dad called me out of the blue and suggested that I start running track again too! So, I was like you know what if three people are telling me to run, maybe I should give it a try. I went to the track coach at Cal and asked if I could jump in on some of their practices. A couple of weeks later my dad gave me a call and said if I actually think I can be fast again that I should find somewhere to train and go all in because with me being in school and coaching I was spreading myself too thin to become competitive. I thought about it and he was right! I talked to a friend of mine and they told me about World Athletic Center (now Altis), I reached out to them and came to check it out for a few weeks. After I left, I went back home for a week, I packed everything I had and moved to Phoenix!
My first year as a professional track athlete, 2015, I raced 4 times. The first thing I did was a 200m race and it was bad! It was all bad! I definitely did not have enough stamina to finish the 200m. Back then I was a football player and 200 meters was wayyy too far. I ran a couple of 100m races and I tied my high school time at 10.31 which was pretty good! Between learning new techniques, getting all the cobwebs out and getting in track shape I feel like 2015 was overall a really good season for me and I’m really excited about this year and my future as a track and field professional!
What was the transition like going from the NFL to Professional Track and Field?
It was difficult! It was just a completely different world and a big difference. It was especially difficult because of my body composition. I was 200 pounds when I arrived in Phoenix, which is too heavy for a sprinter. I lost a lot of weight but I still need to lose a little more. Another issue was football shape vs track shape. In football, we didn’t run over 30 yards hard. After about 30 yards, I’d pretty much stride the rest of the way. So, getting in track shape was a tough adjustment. Furthermore, technique was another battle. Technique wise, I always thought because I ran in high school and I was fast, that I knew track but then coming to Altis, I realized I didn’t know anything about sprinting. So, learning the new techniques, how to actually sprint, how to actually accelerate and how to get out of the blocks was all brand new for me. It is actually a lot of fun for me because I like mastering new athletic skills. At first going through the transition phase, I felt like a football player but now I actually feel like a track athlete!
What was your most monumental moment in Football and Track?
In track it would have to be my senior year 2007 state championships when I ran 20.65 in the 200m event. The background story is the summer before I won the Junior Olympics and I beat Bryshon Nellum. Bryshon had just come back from Youth Worlds, so even though I won the race, I felt that he wasn’t at his best because he had just come back from overseas. I felt I needed to prove that I could beat him when he was ready! My entire senior year the newspapers where writing about the rivalry and big show down between us leading up to the State Championships. It was the biggest race I’ve ever been in and when the gun went off I gave it everything I had. Even though I ended up in second, I ran an amazing time, 20.65, and it is still my most monumental moment in track!
My most monumental moment in football was in 2008, I went to the bowl game for Cal and the game was in San Francisco. That was like a home game for us because it was basically right across the street and I’m from there. It was also in the Giant Stadium which is the best stadium in San Francisco. So, it was huge! The understory of that was that we were playing Miami and Miami was a school that I always wanted to go to when I was young, I’m not even sure why but I wanted to go there and play on their football team. So that added some extra incentive. We stayed in San Francisco for a week, the streetlights had banners of me everywhere throughout union square and it was so dope for me. As soon as the game started, I just went off! There were a couple of times in football when I just knew I was going to have a great game. I could just feel it like a sixth sense and that was one of the games. I ended up with 109 yards, 3 touchdowns and I was the MVP!! And it being home my whole family, my whole high school and everyone I knew was there so they all got to see me at my best! It was definitely my biggest football memory!
What is your mindset going into the Olympic year?
I still have my football sayings drilled into my head. Football is all about taking one step at a time, one day at a time, one rep at a time. So, my mindset going into the Olympic year is everyday to just try to get a little bit better. I don’t really look at the big picture, I’m excited about the big picture but I kind of just take it one step at a time.
How is training going so far?
Training is going great. Literally, week to week I feel like I am getting just a little bit better every single day. So, I think it has been going really good. I think a lot of it has to do with my training group. Being in this environment where people just want to go hard everyday, it’s contagious. You have no choice but to get better.
Advice to Young Athletes
Young athletes in general, I would tell them to keep dreaming because that is one thing that got me to where I wanted to go. From the time I was a kid, I always dreamt of being in the NBA, or I dreamt I was a baseball player for the Giants or the A’s (I never even played baseball lol), and I dreamt I was in the NFL a billion times. Keep dreaming because when you dream and you dream that kind of stuff often you wake up and you try to go do it. I think that is the best motivation for anybody, so keep dreaming!
For people that want to do both sports, I’d say do both for as long as you can. In 2013, I coached football at my old high school, and I noticed a lot of kids would say they only did basketball or only played football, and would just stay in a single sport. One of my biggest regrets is that I stopped playing basketball after only one year in high school. It’s easy to take it for granted. In college, when I never ran track it didn’t hit me at the time because I was focused on football but then I realized that could have been my last opportunity to run. It doesn’t hit you until after it is all over. So, I would say do as many sports as you want or can, while you can because eventually one is going to take over and you can’t even do the others anymore.
Just like I said with the one step at a time. Focus on small, small gains. If you are trying to lose weight don’t try to lose a bunch of weight at once. Just try to lose one pound at a time. If you are trying to do anything, just think about small baby steps and then eventually you’ll get there.
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