It’s 6,569 miles from Ann Arbor, Mich., to PyeongChang, South Korea. Sam McGuffie took the scenic route. At about 90 miles per hour.
“I’m still a huge supporter of Michigan,” McGuffie, the former Michigan Wolverines running back turned U.S. Olympic bobsledder said during a media conference call Tuesday. “[I’m] always going to be a fan. Always will be. I always watch Michigan.
“I’m glad they’re having some success, and things are on the right track with the [football] program.”
The 28-year-old McGuffie and the Maize and Blue have been on, shall we say, slightly different tracks since the football fates — and then-Wolverines running back coach Fred Jackson — brought them together 10 years ago.
@jimrome Sam McGuffie. Htown legend. He used to jump over fools as running back.
— Steve in HTown (@stucknut) January 23, 2018
— Iwa Dojo (@Iwa_Dojo) January 19, 2018
Before Saquon Barkley, there was Sam. When YouTube was still fairly young, McGuffie — a 4-star back from Cypress, Texas — was one of the first high school prospects whose highlights threatened to break it:
The rest of the story, ironically, starts to go a bit … south.
And … west.
And … well, all over the map.
After rushing for 486 yards — 131 of them against Notre Dame — as a freshman at Michigan in 2008, the nimble Texan transferred to Rice, where as a slotback/receiver, he totaled 17 touchdowns on runs, catches, or punt returns over his final three seasons.
Cups of NFL coffee with Oakland, Arizona and New England, and another with Winnipeg in the CFL, followed before an assistant track and field coach at Rice, Casey Thom, pitched the bobsled route.
“It’s totally different, different than you’d think,” said McGuffie, who was introduced to the sport in 2015 and tapped for Team USA earlier this month.
The 2-man Olympic bobsled runs are scheduled for the morning of Feb. 18 and 19; the 4-man runs are slated for Feb. 24 and 25.
“It’s been a pretty crazy ride.”
— Former Michigan running back and Winter Olympian Sam McGuffie, who’ll compete with Team USA in the bobsled next month
“You look at it, you’d think it’s smooth going down the ice — it’s a joy ride,” McGuffie continued. “It’s nothing like that.
“It’s the polar opposite. It’s violent. It’s like … being put in a garbage can [and thrown] down a flight of stairs for a minute straight.”
It’s not for the faint of heart. Or for the squeamish, as this particularly graphic scrapbook from a deep cut McGuffie suffered in February 2016 can attest.
Former NFL great Herschel Walker was a member of the 1992 USA bobsled team; another former football player, ex-Nebraska Cornhusker Curt Tomasevicz, was part of the 4-man bobsled team that won gold at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
“It wasn’t that different from being a running back,” McGuffie said. “You have to explode through the hole.
“You have to be fast. You have to be strong. You can’t just be mediocre at both.”
Mediocre, McGuffie ain’t. The former Michigan back says he can still run a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, even though he’s 20 pounds heavier than his 190-pound college frame. The cat even broke the Olympic Training Center vertical jump record with a leap of 42.5 inches:
— Sam McGuffie (@sam_mcguffie) October 2, 2017
— Sam McGuffie (@sam_mcguffie) September 23, 2017
— Sam McGuffie (@sam_mcguffie) September 25, 2017
— Sam McGuffie (@sam_mcguffie) November 26, 2016
“It’s been trip, honestly,” McGuffie said.
“Yeah, it’s been crazy. There’s been so much that has happened: Changes in my life, where I’ve been, where I’m going. Went to [compete] in Germany, Austria, all over Canada, the United States, different states. It’s been a pretty crazy ride.”
In a few weeks, it’s about to get a hell of a lot crazier.