Athletes playing multiple sports in college wasn’t abnormal back in the day.
A guy named Sammy Baugh played football, basketball and baseball during his years at TCU. But that was in the 1930s.
It’s become far more rare in recent years, especially for a two-sport athlete in football and basketball given how much those seasons overlap. There have been exceptions such as Julius Peppers playing football and basketball at North Carolina and Tony Gonzalez doing the same at Cal.
Enter Jacobe Johnson.
The TCU legacy out of Mustang, Oklahoma, is still only a sophomore, but has already received offers to play football and basketball at TCU. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have offered him both sports as well.
“I was hyped when I got the TCU offer because that’s where my dad went to college,” Johnson said. “I’m excited. TCU is obviously going to be an option for me in the long run, I already know it is. I’ve already visited the school and I like that school.”
In football, Johnson is listed as a four-star athlete by 247Sports. He’s rated as the No. 3 athlete in the country for the Class of 2023. The 6-foot-3 1/2, 187-pounder plays wide receiver and defensive back in high school. At the college level, he projects as a possible cornerback given his length and ball skills.
In basketball, Johnson describes himself as a “big guard” who can get the basket. This is a kid who dunked in a game for the first time in eighth grade.
For now, he’s planning to pursue both sports at the next level.
“I really want to,” Johnson said. “There’s been a lot of people who say I can do it, but also some people who say it’ll be really tough. It will be tough because it’s college, but I feel like I can do both. I like both sports.
“Honestly, I probably like basketball just a little bit more than football because growing up football wasn’t my thing. Basketball was. Football really came into the picture for me last year when I started getting a bunch of offers.”
Johnson hasn’t had much time to sit down and evaluate his recruiting process to date. Mustang is in the playoffs for basketball right now and that’s where his focus has primarily been. Then it’s track season.
He hasn’t talked extensively with his dad yet, either, about TCU and other schools. Malcolm Johnson was a standout basketball player for the Horned Frogs in his two seasons from 1996-98.
Malcolm averaged 18.7 points per game in both seasons, leaving as a member of the 1,000-point club with a TCU career mark of 1,272 career points. The highlight was being part of the 1997-98 team that went 14-0 in the WAC to win the regular-season title and reach the NCAA Tournament under Billy Tubbs.
Malcolm had a brief professional career in the CBA, but never played in the NBA.
“To this day, he says he could’ve played football in college and made it farther in football than he did in basketball,” Jacobe said. “He’s big like me, 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5. He’s a big target with good hands and he could really jump. He was dunking the basketball his freshman year in high school. It was insane how high he could jump.”
Those genes have been passed down to Jacobe, who acknowledged he gives his dad grief because he beat him to the dunking table by doing it in the eighth grade.
“I talk so much trash to him,” Jacobe said, laughing.
As far as the looming decision on where to go to school and whether to play two sports, Jacobe is not putting too much pressure on himself. He’s ready to let the recruiting process play itself out.
“I like TCU, Oklahoma State, OU,” Jacobe said. “I also like LSU, Ohio State. There’s a lot of schools. I’m keeping all options open.”
TCU figures to be in the mix and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds. Recruiting expert Jeremy Clark, who runs 247Sports’ Horned Frog Blitz, can’t recall any two-sport athlete who played football and basketball at TCU in recent memory.
A more common two-sport mix is football in the fall and baseball or track in the spring. For instance, former TCU wide receiver Kolby Listenbee was also an All-American sprinter.
“With how much football and basketball overlap, there’s really not a period for a kid to start preparing for basketball,” Clark said. “All these sports have become year-round because you’re either in season or preparing for the next one.
“But Jacobe is very interesting because he’s got really good bloodlines. There’s a group of people who feel like he’s a better basketball prospect. There’s a group of people who feel like he’s a better football prospect. I’d personally like to see him do both because we haven’t really seen it in the past decade.”
How a two-sport scholarship works
In just about every instance, according to the NCAA bylaws, a two-sport athlete playing football and basketball would count as a football scholarship. The school and/or player do not make the determination as to what sport the scholarship would come from. Football has 85 scholarships, while basketball has 13.
If an athlete played basketball and another sport (excluding football), the scholarship would be counted in basketball.