January 22, 2014 Updated: January 22, 2014 at 10:01 pm
Air Force track coach Ralph Lindeman and his sprint/hurdles coach Allen Johnson were watching Gavin McHenry during prelims at an indoor meet at Nebraska this past weekend when they turned to each other with the same thought.
"We both said, 'He looks bigger than last year,'" Lindeman said. "And we said it almost simultaneously."
McHenry turned out to be faster, too, running 60 meters in 6.91 seconds, where he had run a 6.96 a year ago.
McHenry, a sophomore and a starting cornerback on the football team, owned the second fastest indoor time in the event in the Mountain West last year heading into the conference meet, but he did not compete because the event overlapped with spring football practice.
"We've been assured he will be available this year for the conference meet indoor," Lindeman said, "even though it will probably fall a week or two into spring football."
The change for McHenry seems to indicate a new tone that might open the door for more cooperation between the football and track staffs, though football coach Troy Calhoun said such openness has always existed.
"He very well could have run in the Mountain West Conference indoor meet," Calhoun said. "If that's something a guy wants to do he absolutely can go that route."
Multiple sources, including one in McHenry's family, said Calhoun approved McHenry's participation in last year's meet but it was former assistant coach Charlton Warren who "made it clear it could jeopardize his chance of starting. It was like "I'm not telling you that you can't, but ..."
McHenry will compete this weekend at the Air Force Invitational at the academy's indoor facility in the Cadet Field House.
Right now only McHenry and tight end/javelin thrower Garrett Griffin compete for the football and track teams.
"We always hope we can get one or more interested and excited," Lindeman said. "They just need to see that there's a good level of cooperation now between the staffs. You don't ever want to put a kid in a tug-o-war."
Of course, when things are going smoothly between the programs, you'll find examples like McHenry - an athlete who is being buffed up by the football training staff and then made faster by the track program. "That's a good thing," Lindeman said. "If (strength and conditioning) coach (Matt) McGettigan can get him bigger and faster, then it's nothing but a good thing for both of our teams."