NEW YORK - Asafa Powell isn’t the only one who wants a piece of Justin Gatlin. The Philadelphia Eagles do, too.
Gatlin’s agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, said Thursday the Eagles have made several inquiries the last three weeks to see if his client was interested in playing football. But Gatlin has only one summer plan: a long-anticipated race with Powell in a matchup between the two 100-meter world-record holders.
Nehemiah, who played in the NFL for four seasons in the 1980s after starring in the hurdles, said the Eagles have left phone messages and sent e-mails to him about Gatlin.
Eagles spokesman Derek Boyko said he was unaware of the team’s interest, and it was club policy not to comment on any potential personnel moves.
The Eagles are desperate for a receiver and kickoff returner. Of course, they already drafted one Olympian this year, taking freestyle skier Jeremy Bloom in the fifth round to return kicks.
Though Nehemiah knows the temptation of playing in the NFL, he has no plans to return the Eagles’ calls and mentioned the topic to Gatlin only in passing.
“Football isn’t a necessity” for Gatlin, Nehemiah said. Gatlin, who won Olympic gold in the 100 in Athens, last played football some nine years ago, after quitting his high school team in 10th grade after a dispute with his coach.
“He’s doing well enough he doesn’t need it,” Nehemiah said.
Of more importance to Gatlin and Nehemiah is the showdown with Powell. Gatlin and Powell raced in separate 100 heats last week at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., and a potential race in Gateshead, England, on June 11 fell through.
This week, Gatlin is in New York for the Reebok Grand Prix, while Powell will race in the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway. Nehemiah hopes the two will be able to race by the end of July.
“It obviously has to do with more than just track and field, dealing with the head to head, financial reasons and the venue as well, dealing with the weather,” Gatlin said. The competitive side doesn’t care, I want to go out there and run. But the smart, business side of me knows this is something special. This doesn’t happen all the time in track and field. So I want to make sure when it’s done, I want it done right.”
Nehemiah has been in constant communication with Powell’s representatives and has been getting dozens of calls from meet directors around the world wanting to host the showdown.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“They’re going to race. That’s no doubt in my mind,” Nehemiah said. “Unfortunately, it’s become bigger than I wanted it to become, and so we’re inundated with so many people jockeying for that first race.”
Gatlin, who tied Powell’s mark of 9.77 seconds in Doha three weeks ago, said the meeting would be worth the wait.
“I want to make sure Asafa’s at his A-game. I don’t want excuses for a win or for a loss,” Gatlin said. “I want to make sure we’re both 100 percent and may the best man win when we go out there. For the fans, I think: give it some time and everything will be OK. They’ll understand by the time we get to the line and we’re head-to-head that everyone will enjoy the race and everyone will be satisfied.”
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