Evaluating HS Football Players' Crossover Ability In Track

* Bishop Gorman's Zachariah Branch during the 2021 track season

Photo Credit: Josh Ornelas/Utah MileSplit

By Garrett Zatlin - MileSplit Correspondent

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The college signing process is a little different for track and field and football athletes. For incoming senior football players, the National Letter of Intent period actually begins next year, on Nov. 23., 2023.

But for those who are signing specifically to track and field programs, their period opens on Nov. 9 of this year.

How about the crossover athletes? If an athlete ultimately wants to pursue football at the collegiate level, they'll have to sign next year. But that doesn't mean they won't have opportunities to run or compete for their prospective programs, either. 

In some instances, these star-caliber football recruits have displayed overlap, proving to be valuable two-sport athletes. Below, we highlighted every Class of 2023 football recruit ranked in the top 20 on 247 Sports.

We then evaluated some of the track and field accolades that these young men have posted (if any) in the past.

Note: For the rankings below, we referenced 247 Sports' Composite score, which is a banded rating including the average rank between 247, Rivals and ESPN. This is a national ranking compiled of every recruit in the country; it is not event-focused or even state-focused. 

Samson OkunlolaBrockton (MA)

247 Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 16

Commitment: N/A

Okunlola has been scouted as one of the best offensive linemen in the Class of 2023. He's rated as the third-best offensive tackle in the country right now. A well-rounded product on the football field, the Massachusetts native has been pursued heavily by the University of Miami. 

Okunlola, however, was briefly a thrower on his high school track and field team before dropping the sport after his freshman year and later pursuing wrestling during the winter. 

During those 2019 indoor and outdoor track seasons, Okunlola went on to throw modest marks of 40 feet, seven inches in the shot put as well as 104-7 in the discus.

Ultimately, football will be the priority for this five-star recruit who has also visited Michigan State and Alabama in addition to Miami.

Jurrion Dickey, San Jose Valley Christian (CA)

247 Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 71

Commitment: Oregon

Dickey is an excellent wide receiver, flexing incredible athleticism which should make him a problem for defensive backs in the PAC-12.

However, on paper, Dickey also has a few respectable track and field marks.

The Oregon commit isn't necessarily a star in the sprints, but his all conditions long jump PR of 23-9.25 ranked him at U.S. No. 97 in 2022. 

While Dickey has shown promise on the track, his raw talent on the football field likely means that the long jump will be less of a priority (or even non-existent) at the collegiate level.

David Hicks, Katy Paetow (TX)

247 Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 6

Commitment: N/A

A dynamic defensive lineman with numerous national-caliber facets to his game, Hicks is a high-value football recruit who has high interest from Texas A&M. However, schools like Michigan State, Miami, Oklahoma and Alabama have also attracted a visit from the five-star talent.

When it comes to track and field, Hicks is someone with some fairly respectable marks in the throws events, specifically in the shot put. The Texas native, who competed for Katy Morton Ranch in 2021, owns a personal best of 54-2 in the event and was among the nation's top 400 boys this past spring.

It is somewhat possible that Hicks will continue to improve in the shot put and emerge as someone capable of being nationally competitive in the event.

If that happens, then we could, in theory, see him as a dual-sport athlete in college.

However, the more likely scenario is that Hicks will drop track and field altogether as he focuses on the athletic nuances associated with being a defensive lineman at the Power Five level.

Zachariah BranchLas Vegas Bishop Gorman (NV)

247 Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 5

Commitment: USC

Viewed as one of the most electric high school wide receivers in the country, Branch's football and track prowess make him one of the best overall athletes in the Class of 2023. Right now, Branch is committed to USC, although Texas A&M has seemingly made an effort to recruit him away from the Los Angeles-based university.

Whether it be USC or Texas A&M, Branch's explosive sprint speed would make him a perfect match for either school, especially the Trojans. During the 2021 outdoor track season, Branch earned three top 40 marks nationally. He ran 10.33 in the 100m dash, 21.01 in the 200m dash and jumped 24-0 in the long jump.

That 100m dash time listed Branch at US No. 7 when filtering out wind-aided marks. However, his 200m and long jump marks were not wind-legal. Nonetheless, that 100m PR was elite and it put Branch into a different tier of athleticism.

That being said, it looks like Branch hung up the spikes in 2022. Based on our known spring data, he did not compete in track. At the moment, one has to think that track and field has, understandably, taken a backseat to football. Branch could be a candidate to enroll early at USC to get his feet wet. 

Nyckoles Harbor, Archbishop Carroll (DC)

247 Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 9

Commitment: N/A

Harbor is an athletic wonder, holding the ability to play anywhere from tight end to linebacker to edge rusher. If Branch isn't the most complete athlete in the country right now, then Harbor certainly is.

That's because the Washington, DC native is also a masterful sprinter on the track. This past spring, he was ranked at US No. 8 in the 100m dash (10.28) and US No. 18 in the 200m (20.95).

On the indoor oval, Harbor was even better, earning three top 10 times nationally between the 55m, 60m dash and the 200m. He also earned a US No. 25 mark in the 300m as well. On social media, Harbor has made it perfectly clear throughout his recruiting journey that track will be a priority in his decision.

And with schools like LSU, Georgia and USC amongst his top-seven, there's a good chance that Harbor could be competing for a powerhouse team in two different sports in the NCAA.

Kadyn Proctor, Southeast Polk (IA)

247 Sports Composite Ranking: No. 10

Commitment: Iowa

Proctor is a dominant offensive lineman who is viewed as a physically-ready product for the higher level of competition that comes with the NCAA.

However, any technical nuances that he developed as a lineman may have bolstered his throwing prowess. That's because the Iowa native, who is committed to the Hawkeyes, owns a sneaky-strong shot put mark of 52-10, which he threw this past spring.

That PR earned Proctor a fifth-place finish at the Iowa State Championships.

Iowa is a historically strong throws program and the BIG 10 is extremely competitive in that area. While it is possible that the Hawkeyes would add Proctor to their roster, he would likely have to make key improvements during his senior year in order for that to happen.