TCU football signee Bryson Jackson insists he wants to play baseball as well for the Horned Frogs.
Is he that good an athlete?
“Oh yeah,” TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “I’ve seen him play.”
The three-star wide receiver and fleet center fielder from Humble is welcome to try both sports at TCU.
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But Schlossnagle said he will have to be productive in baseball for football coach Gary Patterson to let him play during spring practice, not to mention keep his grades up.
“It’s certainly workable, and Gary’s great about it if the guy is going to have an impact on our team,” Schlossnagle said. “And this would be the case if it was track or anything else. Gary’s a team player that way. But if he’s not going to have an impact on another sport, then he doesn’t want him missing.”
So that will be the first trick for Jackson, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound athlete who is going to enroll in January — become enough of a contributor in baseball so that he is not missing spring football for the sake of sitting and watching from a baseball dugout.
“If they want to do it, they’ve got to keep up in both,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to be able to lift and run and you’ve got to be able to practice. That’s always been the rule, as long as they can keep their grades up. We’ve never taken our ball and gone home.”
Patterson and Schlossnagle have a track record of making it work.
Chad Huffman played both football and baseball for TCU in 2004 and 2005 and was on track to be the quarterback in 2006. But that summer, after hitting .388 with 18 home runs for the Frogs, he was drafted in the second round and signed by Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres.
“Had he not signed, he would have been the starting quarterback for us in the fall of 2006,” Schlossnagle said. “And because he was not, a redshirt freshman by the name of Andy Dalton got the job.”
Senior wideout Ty Slanina also gave baseball a go when he signed a football scholarship in the 2013 recruiting class. He appeared in four baseball games in 2014, three as a pinch hitter and one as a pinch runner. He stuck with football after that and has 89 catches in a five-year career going into the Alamo Bowl game against Stanford.
Athletes of that type don’t come along very often. Huffman was such an exceptional case, he once finished a spring football scrimmage, ran to the baseball stadium still in his pads, changed and got to the dugout in time to hit a home run in his first at-bat.
It’s no urban legend, Schlossnagle said.
Patterson laughs when he tells the story.
“We just get them warmed up,” he said.
Jackson, who wants to be “the next Bo Jackson,” may have the athletic skills to do it, too. But Schlossnagle warns against runaway expectations because Jackson is behind the regular baseball signees in at-bats and experience.
“Hitting is a very specific skill you have to stay on top of,” Schlossnagle said. “Hitting is not something you can take a four- or five-month break from. You don’t have to play games, but you can at least get in the batting cage. And the other thing that’s important for college position players in their development is summer baseball. Like anything else, football is almost year-round.
“And then you’ve got to be a good student. If your grades start to slack, one of your sports is going to have to go by the wayside, and that would be baseball in this instance since he’s on a football scholarship.”
But Jackson remains intriguing, and Schlossnagle is eager to see gauge his potential. After all, the two-way hopeful could save a scholarship in a sport that awards only 11.7 scholarships for a 35-player roster.
“He’s very fast,” Schlossnagle said. “He has some skills on a baseball field. He’s a good defender in the outfield. He has a good swing. He doesn’t have nearly as many at-bats as other kids his age. We’ll see how it goes when he gets here.”