Leo Bookman is giving up football to concentrate on track.
Bookman, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound Kansas University senior-to-be from Dickinson, Texas, said Wednesday from the USA Track and Field Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., his future was on the cinder, not the gridiron.
"It was a pretty difficult decision. I've been thinking about it a long time," said Bookman, who this past school year won NCAA titles in the 200 meters at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor championships. I've had a lot of success on the track and it'd be hard for me to not concentrate on that with my goal (being) the 2004 Olympics."
Bookman, who will run in the 200 prelims at the USA meet at 3:55 p.m. Saturday, played in 10 of 12 games for the football Jayhawks last season. He returned 10 kickoffs for an average of 13.6 yards per return. His longest kickoff return was 21 yards. He caught no passes as a receiver, carrying the ball once on a reverse for a 15-yard loss versus SW Missouri State.
"He's a great athlete, a great competitor who has a great opportunity to reach his potential (in track)," KU track coach Stanley Redwine said. "We will (now) do some things differently. He'll be able to get a wider base."
Asked what football coach Mark Mangino thought of his decision, Bookman said, "No comment."
Mangino issued a statement Wednesday explaining his feelings.
"I am extremely happy for Leo," Mangino said. "I know he has been concentrating on his track career for quite a while. Leo has the potential to become one of the top sprinters in the country. He is already a world-class track athlete and future Olympian. I believe playing football could prevent him from reaching some of his goals on the track. We are very sorry to lose Leo but will root for him every time he steps on the track."
Bookman is KU's indoor 200 record holder (20.53) and No. 2 on KU's career charts in the outdoor 200 (20.37).
"I think winning indoor felt better because it was my first time and it was a shock to me," Bookman said. "It was nice to win again at outdoor. I feel great physically right now and don't feel any pressure because I'm not expected to do that well here (at USA meet)."