Spring training is an annual rite of passage in American sports. When the bats and spikes come out and baseball players begin to tune their game, it is a sign of hope and change – and a signal that the approaching spring sun will melt away the snow that has buried southeast Michigan.
For two of America’s most celebrated young quarterbacks – Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston of Florida State and Russell Wilson of the Super Bowl champ Seattle Seahawks – recent visits to spring training camps sparked questions about playing two sports.
Long before then, Lion and NFL legend Bobby Layne regularly combined football and baseball as a quarterback and pitcher at the University of Texas.
For Winston, who played in an exhibition game against the Yankees, the question was whether returning to his role as a closer for Florida State this season might risk injuring his passing arm and potentially hurting his NFL career.
Wilson, who played two seasons of minor league baseball while still at North Carolina State, visited the Texas Rangers’ camp last week and took part in infield drills. Wilson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2010. The Rangers acquired his rights in a trade in 2013.
Layne, one of the most iconic quarterbacks in NFL history, never played in the majors, but he was one of the greatest pitchers in college history.
Layne enrolled at the University of Texas in 1944. In four seasons he compiled a 28-0 record in the old Southwest Conference. His overall record was 39-7, anad he threw two no-hitters in the 1946 season.
Layne was not one to concern himself about the risk of injury on the diamond or the gridiron.
In fact, Layne was on the cover of a 1995 issue of Sports Illustrated under the headline: "The Toughest Quarterback Ever."