Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver intercepts a pass in the spring game last month at Folsom Field. Oliver is projected as a starter in the CU secondary
Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver intercepts a pass in the spring game last month at Folsom Field. Oliver is projected as a starter in the CU secondary this fall. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Multisport Buffs

This spring, three Colorado football players are participating in track and field:

RB Patrick Carr, Fr.: Potentially one of the top playmakers on CU's offense, this spring, he is running sprints (100 meters, 200 meters, relays) for the track team.

CB Isaiah Oliver, Fr.: Projected as a starter in the secondary, Oliver is excelling in the decathlon, ranking 10th in the Pac-12. He's also slated to participate in two individual events (110 hurdles and long jump) at the Pac-12 championships.

LB Christian Shaver, So.: Working as an inside and outside linebacker, Shaver provides great depth for the Buffs defense. In track and field, he participates in the throws, concentrating mainly on the javelin.

Going into the Pac-12 multi-event championships this weekend in Seattle, Colorado's Isaiah Oliver and his coach, Lindsey Malone, knew he wasn't going to be as prepared as his competitors.

With football as his main priority, Oliver has spent a large chunk of his spring working on the gridiron, while his competitors have spent all spring perfecting their skills in the 10-event decathlon.

No worries.

"You have to manage to put the best version of Isaiah together for this weekend," Malone said.

From what Oliver has shown to this point, the best version of himself is usually pretty good.


Advertisement

Just a true freshman, Oliver is turning heads on the football field and he's starting to impress as a decathlete. The multi-event championships began Saturday and conclude Sunday. Oliver came in ranked 10th in the decathlon.

"He's kind of a beast, and I'm getting to know it more as we get to work together," Malone said.

A 6-foot-1, 185-pound cornerback who is likely to start this fall for the Buffs' football team, Oliver is following in the footsteps of his father, Muhammad, who excelled in both sports at the University of Oregon.

"It's definitely been a great experience," said Oliver, who is from Goodyear, Ariz. "I think track as a whole helps you as an athlete, from getting faster, getting more powerful, jumping ability. The decathlon in particular, I always felt like it helped me as a football player just because it allows me to compete at a high level in different events, in a different sport. It just makes me a better athlete all-around."

His father was an NCAA All-American in the decathlon and also starred as a cornerback. Muhammad was selected in the ninth round of the 1992 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos and played five seasons in the league.

Isaiah Oliver warms up for decathlon practice Wednesday at Potts Field. Oliver jumped at the chance to combine football with track and field at Colorado.
Isaiah Oliver warms up for decathlon practice Wednesday at Potts Field. Oliver jumped at the chance to combine football with track and field at Colorado. (Autumn Parry / Staff Photographer)

With a love for both sports, Oliver wanted to be in the Pac-12 and find a school that would let him participate in both. Several schools, including the University of Miami, wanted him only for the decathlon. A bunch of Pac-12 schools wanted him for football, but wouldn't let him participate in track and field. CU gave him the opportunity to participate in both.

"It was hard for me to go to a school and not be able to play football, because football is my first love," he said. "When (CU offered both), they were first on the list."

Participating in both sports has become rare in recent years. Prior to this year, only about 40 athletes in CU history have lettered in both sports, with most coming from the 1930s-1960s, when multisport participation was more common.

Colorado cornerback/decathlete Isaiah Oliver practices the long jump Wednesday at Potts Field. Oliver ranks 10th in the Pac-12 in the decathlon as a true
Colorado cornerback/decathlete Isaiah Oliver practices the long jump Wednesday at Potts Field. Oliver ranks 10th in the Pac-12 in the decathlon as a true freshman. (Autumn Parry / Staff Photographer)

From 2000-15, only one Buff — Hugh Charles — lettered in both sports, and Charles didn't participate in track until after his football career was over.

This spring, Oliver is one of three current football players on the track team, joining running back Patrick Carr (sprints) and linebacker Christian Shaver (throws).

"It's a really good thing," head football coach Mike MacIntyre said. "No. 1, I think it's definitely a recruiting advantage for us. There's quite a few players that we recruit that people tell them they're going to play both sports and they never do, and we're able to do that.

"We have a great relationship with (head track coach Mark) Wetmore and the track coaches and sprint coaches."

That relationship has helped Malone as she works with Oliver. She said the football staff does a great job getting him into shape. The challenge for her then becomes trying to perfect his skills in a short period of time, but Oliver makes that easier.

"How he can pick up information so quickly and apply, it's really been impressive," she said. "I think his motivation is there to learn it, but also he has the physical tools and the competitive drive to be able to do it."

Despite his limited decathlon training, Oliver is excited to see how he'll perform at the Pac-12 championships and throughout his collegiate career. Once this season is over, he'll turn his focus to his top priority, which is trying to help the Buffs win football games.

The opportunity to help both teams is one that trumps any lack of preparation he may feel as a part-time decathlete

"I'm always going to be at a slight disadvantage (in the decathlon)," he said. "But it's definitely something I wouldn't want to change or give up.

"Once we get going throughout the years, I feel like the mesh will become better and we'll be able to squeeze more things in and we'll be able to get more work in (on the decathlon)."

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.