The potential recruiting benefits for the University of Kansas to having Rock Chalk Park jammed with AAU games being played on eight different courts in the same building are obvious.
The recruiting edge for KU football, thanks to Rock Chalk Park serving as site of the Junior Olympic Games track and field meet, is more subtle.
Some of the young athletes in Lawrence for the event will end up playing a different sport in college, perhaps football. Shot putters and discus throwers often double as offensive and defensive linemen.
There might even be a young, slender Junior Olympian distance runner who grows into a defensive lineman. Sounds crazy, but it has happened before.
“I made it to the Junior Olympics a couple of times,” Kansas star defensive tackle Daniel Wise said. “I grew up a long-distance runner. I was a little twig back in the day. I wasn’t always this big.”
Wise, nearing 300 pounds heading into his red-shirt junior season, said that in his middle-school years he ran the 800 meters and 1,500 meters at two Junior Olympic Games, one in New Orleans, another in Virginia.
“It was a big deal,” he said. “It was a huge deal. I think that it’s great that it’s in Lawrence. I want to come out and see it.”
Wise is the second of three brothers to play college football. Deatrich, a defensive end at Arkansas, was selected by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the most recent NFL draft. Solomon, Daniel’s younger brother, plays defensive end at UT-San Antonio.
“I wrestled as a kid, too, got some medals in wrestling,” Wise said. “Back then I was a lighter weight for my age. Our parents had us playing everything when we were little to see what we liked: basketball, soccer, track, wrestling. Obviously, football stuck for all of us.”
Participating in multiple sports not only balances the body, which can help to prevent injury, it balances the mind and lessens the chance of burning out on a particular sport. Wise’s experience as a runner helps in many ways and the wrestling background helps him to stay low to the ground to gain leverage.
Wise grew too big to stick with distance running so he switched to throwing weights in high school. Now he throws offensive linemen.
Having so many talented young athletes in town not only helps the local economy, it can benefit KU recruiting. An athlete performs well, has a great meal or three, leaves with positive vibes about Lawrence and he or she might be more likely to be receptive to a KU coach's scholarship offer years later.