In an era of specialization, Morgan Trent is an anomaly.
A rising star in the Michigan football secondary, the sophomore cornerback doubles as a sprinter on the track team. After redshirting both the indoor and outdoor seasons last year, Trent finally made his debut as a runner, placing sixth in the 200-meter dash at the Sykes-Sabok Challenge Cup in State College on Feb. 11 with a time of 21.72. He earned his first collegiate win the next week at the Harold Silverston Invitational in Ann Arbor, when he ran the 200-meter dash in 21.92.
“Right when the football season was over, I started thinking about (running track),” Trent said. “I’ve always wanted to, ever since I’ve been in college, but I wanted to establish myself in football first.”
Trent is not the only football player on the track team – senior offensive lineman Paul Sarantos competes in the throwing events – but he is the only runner. Trent’s situation, however, is surprisingly common in recent Wolverine history. Many of the program’s storied players, from Desmond Howard to Braylon Edwards, participated in track during their Michigan careers.
Tyrone Wheatley was one of the most successful dual-sport athletes. He was a running back for the football team from 1991 to 1995, garnering three All-Big Ten selections in that span. He also hurdled and sprinted for the track team. He was an NCAA All American in 1995 and a Big Ten hurdles champion in 1994. Now serving as a volunteer track coach, Wheatley understands the nature of what Trent is trying to do.
“Each story is different, and each guy is different,” Wheatley said. “If you can run, you can come over (to track) and be successful. You can’t teach speed, and Morgan is exceptionally fast. If you are talented, it makes the transition easier.”
Even though Trent’s transition appears to have been relatively smooth, there have been bumps along the way. Balancing both sports sometimes takes a toll on his time. Whenever he wonders how to get it all done, Trent has to look no further than Wheatley for guidance.
“I definitely talk to Tyrone a lot,” Trent said. “He’s been there and done that. He’s there when I need him. He has a lot of advice for me about how to do both, in terms of balancing heavy lifting for football with running for track.”
Trent’s first love is football, but his contributions to the track team do not go unnoticed. Sprint coach Fred LaPlante, for one, is thankful Trent has the desire to do both.
“We’re just happy to have a guy of his caliber out here,” LaPlante said. “We realize this is second priority, although I think he really loves track. As it gets past the indoor season, with spring football and everything, I hope he keeps up his enthusiasm for track. I know the guys on this team love having him out here.”
Many football players have run track, but few (with the notable exception of Wheatley) continued to do so for their whole Michigan careers. Trent hopes that with the consent of the football and track coaches he can be one of them.
“It’s tough to do both, but we are making it happen,” Trent said. “If all the coaches keep being ok with it, and I continue to stay healthy, I’d love to do both.”