GATORS IN THE PROS

Double gold medalist


The US 4x100 Men's relay team, John Capel, Bernard Williams, Darvis Patton and J.J. Johnson, celebrate with their national flag after winning the gold medal at the World Athletics Championships in the Stade de France, Saint Denis, north of Paris on Sunday. The U.S. gold medal finish marks the second gold medal of the World Championships for former UF athlete Capel.

The Associated Press
Published: Monday, September 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 1, 2003 at 12:09 a.m.
SAINT-DENIS, France - John Capel has no doubt what sport is his best now. The pro football failure was a double gold medalist sprinter at the World Track and Field Championships.
Capel added a 400-meter relay gold Sunday to punctuate a breakout performance in a meet where the big-name U.S. sprinters faded on the track and ran into big trouble off of it.
"I can't even put in words how it is to come back from two years of watching the sport and saying 'I don't know if I want to come back,' then being here in front of you today standing as the world champion twice," Capel said at the post-race news conference. "You can't put that into words."
Then teammate Bernard Williams stared at him and said, "Man, that's deep."
Capel, the 200-meter champion, broke out laughing. The relay winners were downright giddy after their victory. They played with their interpreter headphones, laughed at Williams' mugging and generally enjoyed a victory that seemed unlikely after Maurice Greene, Tim Montgomery and Jon Drummond all dropped out of the meet for different reasons.
Greene was hurt in the second round and Montgomery went home without explanation after his fifth-place finish in the 100. Drummond withdrew from the meet, then was kicked out by the IAAF just for good measure, after his tirade following a false start in the second round.
Those three, along with Williams, were supposed to make up the relay team in the finals.
That made the triumph especially sweet for Capel, Darvis Patton and J.J. Johnson, who ran three heats and a final in the 200, then all three rounds of the 400 relay. Of the members of the relay team, only Bernard Williams would have been there if everything went as planned.
"It's crazy," Capel said. "These four guys were never supposed to be together, but we're here. We made it through all the adversity and all the downfalls. We stepped up to show that the United States, we still are a strong country and we always will be."
For a guy just 24, Capel has had quite a history. In 2000, he gave up his football career at the University of Florida and roared into the 2000 Olympics with a 19.85-second clocking in the 200 at the U.S. Olympic Trials. But in the final in Sydney, he faltered out of the blocks and finished dead last in the finals.
Along the way, according to his own count, he was arrested four times for marijuana possession. Capel was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2001 but was cut before training camp. That was followed by a brief stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, who also released him.
Coach Dick Vermeil told Capel to go back to what he does best, and that was sprinting.
"If you talk to him, tell him I love him," Capel said after his 200 triumph.
Capel says he has his life straightened out now. He leads a pre-race and post-race prayer with his teammates. He became the leading spokesman for his team. With Patton, the Olympic silver medalist in the 200, and Capel building momentum, Greene and Montgomery could face some serious competition for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team next year.
The prospect led Williams, who also attended UF, to turn serious for a minute.
"Every Olympic trials is always hot, and sprinters are born every 30 seconds," he said. "If it's going to be difficult for them, it's going to be difficult for myself, and for the other three guys that just ran. It's going to be difficult all over again because it's a brand new season and you never know who's going to win until the end."

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