February 8, 2018
Sam McGuffie, a 2008 Cy-Fair High School graduate, will represent the United States at XXII Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea after he qualified in both the two- and four-man bobsled. A former football standout who played collegiately at the University of Michigan and Rice University, McGuffie looks to become the third Texan to medal in bobsled. (Photo courtesy Molly Choma, USA Bobsled & Skeleton)
Feb. 8, 2018—Sam McGuffie is still asked about his days playing football for Cy-Fair High School, especially about the video that went viral after the star running back hurdled over an opposing defender.
He’s still asked about his recruitment and time in college football, which saw McGuffie sign with the University of Michigan and play as a true freshman before multiple concussions eventually led to him transferring to Rice University. He transitioned to slot receiver and became the first Owls player to top 1,000 career yards in both rushing and receiving.
During an outstanding prep career, 2008 Cy-Fair High School graduate Sam McGuffie (No. 2) helped lead the Bobcats to a pair of state quarterfinals and a regional appearance. (Photo courtesy Houston Chronicle/Johnny Hanson)
There are questions about his NFL prospects – even now for the 29-year-old. And rugby, which McGuffie has excelled at and may continue in future.
But in the present, the speedster from Cy-Fair is hoping for gold – Olympic gold. McGuffie will represent the United States in both the two- and four-man bobsled in the XXIII Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The opening ceremony and symbolic parade of nations will be Feb. 9, with millions across the world watching McGuffie and his American teammates.
McGuffie is the brakeman (last man in the sled) for Pilot Codie Bascue’s two- and four-man sled.
In support of Olympian and 2008 Cy-Fair High School graduate Sam McGuffie, school staff wore red, white and blue Feb. Among those wearing the colors were Associate Principal Stephanie Lyle (left) and assistant principals Jenny Landry, Bishop Silmon, Radele Walker and Ricca Meyers. (Photo by Joanna Warren, Cy-Fair High School)
“It’s been a trip honestly,” McGuffie said during a conference call last month. “Just been crazy. There’s been so much that has happened. Changes in my life. Where I’ve been to where I’m going.
“I’ve been to Switzerland, Germany, Austria and all over Canada and the United States. So yeah, it’s been a crazy ride.”
Bobsled competition begins Feb. 17, with the two-man medal heats two days later and four-man medal races scheduled for Feb. 25.
Cy-Fair High School showed its support Feb. 8, with a number of staff and students wearing red, white and blue in honor of their homegrown Olympian.
Sam McGuffie, a 2008 Cy-Fair High School graduate, will be the brakeman (last man in the sled) for Pilot Codie Bascue’s two- and four-man sled. McGuffie won five medals in World Cup events, including gold medals at Lake Placid, N.Y. in November and December. (Photo courtesy Molly Choma, USA Bobsled & Skeleton)
McGuffie is trying to become just the third Texan to medal in the sport, as he would join 2002 silver medalist Todd Hays of Del Rio and 2010 gold medalist Justin Olsen of San Antonio. Both Hays and Olsen are former football players with Olsen playing one season at the Air Force Academy and Hays spending two seasons in the Canadian Football League following his days as a linebacker at the University of Tulsa.
Though a growing sport, five of the 14-member Men’s Bobsled National Team are from northern states or those more accustomed to snow. Another is a German native born in Indiana who went to college in Maine.
Former Cy-Fair High School football star running back Sam McGuffie ran for 3,121 yards and 44 touchdowns during his junior season in 2006, but became a national sensation after a highlight video of him hurdling a defender garnered hundreds of thousands of views on early platforms of social media. (Photo courtesy Houston Chronicle/Brett Coomer)
McGuffie, who only picked up the sport on the advice of former Rice Assistant Track Coach Casey Thom, hopes his exposure and possible success might help change that.
“Just think outside the box,” McGuffie said. “People think of the traditional (sports) – football, basketball and baseball – but there are many other sports you can play and do at a high level. They’re out there.
“It’s not just the performing aspect. Being an Olympian is something that few get to be and call themselves. I’m going to take it all in and go from there.”
McGuffie first made a name for himself with the Bobcats, joining the varsity football team as a sophomore. Head Coach Ed Pustejovsky recalled a game late in the season against Cypress Creek where McGuffie returned a kickoff and showed the speed many would eventually associate him with.
“It was less than two minutes, he went down the sidelines and he didn’t go out of bounds when it looked like most people would have,” said the long-time coach who led the Bobcats to a pair of state quarterfinals and a regional appearance during McGuffie’s three varsity seasons. “He had a nice playoff run and played really well in the quarterfinal game against (Spring) Westfield. I think he scored three touchdowns and remember – Sam was about 150 pounds. He wasn’t as strong as he got later on in his career here, but we knew right then he was going to be pretty special.”
Sam McGuffie, a 2008 Cy-Fair High School graduate, is looking to be just the third Texan to earn an Olympic medal in bobsled. The former football standout qualified for the XXII Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea in both the two- and four-man bobsled. (Photo courtesy Molly Choma, USA Bobsled & Skeleton)
As a junior in 2006, McGuffie ran for 3,121 yards and 44 touchdowns. His athletic and acrobatic running style was just as impressive as his season numbers.
Against Cypress Creek, McGuffie went viral before the term existed. He took a handoff and ran left. With a defender closing in, McGuffie planted his foot at the 15-yard line, jumped nearly four feet in the air over a defender, stepped on the would-be tackler’s back, landed on his left foot just outside the 10 and ran into the end zone. The touchdown was the seventh of McGuffie’s eight that night, who later said the hurdle was “just reaction.”
Video of the play was uploaded on early platforms of social media, even landing on the homepage of Myspace Founder Tom Anderson, which helped it rack up hundreds of thousands of views. A mixtape of McGuffie highlights garnered more than 3 million views on YouTube.
“People still bring it up,” McGuffie said. “That’s kind of how I’ll be remembered, for jumping over people.”
The U.S. Army All-American signed with Michigan, starting as a true freshman and even making a mark against Notre Dame after he ran for 131 yards and added 47 more through the air with a touchdown. He transferred to Rice where he participated in track and field as well as excelling on the football field.
That track connection brought him to bobsled. He tried gymnastics, karate, baseball, basketball, BMX cycling and surfing while growing up. McGuffie joined PRO Rugby in 2016 and scored 65 tries (rugby’s equivalent to a touchdown) in his first season with Tiger Rugby in Akron, Ohio.
But bobsled was different, especially for the Texan who didn’t know much about the sport.
His first trip down the track came in 2015 at Lake Placid, N.Y., which hosted the Winter Games in 1932 and 1980. McGuffie was behind driver Steven Holcomb, who won gold in 2010. The ride opened McGuffie’s eyes and quickly changed his perception.
“It’s different than you think,” said McGuffie, adding he felt sick during and after. “You look at it and think, ‘Oh, it looks smooth going down the ice and it’s a joy ride.’ But it’s nothing like that. It’s the polar opposite of that.
“It’s violent. Like being put in a garbage can and kicked down a flight of stairs for a minute straight.”
There are bruises all the time and sore legs. McGuffie’s success comes from what worked on the football field – explosion, power and speed. He impressed coaches and set USA Bobsled records for vertical leap and the 30-yard spring, making the national team in 2015.
“Football translates pretty well,” he said. “As a running back, you have to explode through the hole and that’s what I do with the bobsled.”
As for beyond the Olympics, football hasn’t left McGuffie’s mind. He said he still has 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash despite now being roughly 20 pounds over his college weight. There’s the possibility of taking rugby to the national level and the Summer Olympics. There’s also the thought of focusing on bobsled and eventually becoming a drive.
For now, he’s just enjoying the ride he’s on, all while representing his home while doing so.
“I’m Houston, Texas through and through. I’m definitely going to represent Rice University and Cypress to the best of my ability,” McGuffie said. “There’s two chances that I can hopefully do the best I can and if I’m lucky to get a medal out of that, it would be pretty sweet.”