BOULDER - After justifying his nickname in one sport, Colorado tailback Rodney "Speedy" Stewart will attempt to do it in another. The Buffaloes' leading rusher for the past two seasons was added to the track roster on Thursday and is scheduled to compete in the 60-meter dash on Saturday in the Don Barrett Duals at the Air Force Academy.
"Yeah, I'm excited about this," Stewart said. "I don't know if the 60 is my best event because I haven't done it yet. But I'm looking forward to finding out."
Stewart, a senior-to-be, approached several friends who currently run track and told them he was interested in running. He lettered four times in track (sprints, relays) at Brookhaven High School in Westerville, Ohio, and was a member of the 2005 state championship team. His high school career best time in the 100-meter dash was 10.7 seconds.
"He practiced a little bit with us last year - just two or three times - but it ended up not working out," CU Sprint Coach Drew Morano said. "This year he's been a little more consistent working out; he's working hard and trying to get better. We'll take anyone who's got talent and is willing to work."
Morano said Stewart's track participation came through mutual consent from Football Coach Jon Embree and Director of Speed, Strength and Conditioning Malcolm Blacken.
"We sat down with the weight coach, Coach Embree and (Stewart) and talked about the parameters of how it's going to work out," Morano said. "We all came to an understanding about how all of us could benefit from it. There was a little bit of a process but they were all understanding and open to it."
The football team began winter conditioning earlier this month and will continue until shortly before spring football drills begin on Friday, March 11. Stewart conceivably could compete in practically all of CU's indoor track season, although spring drills start on the same day the NCAA Indoor Championships open at Texas A&M.
Spring football concludes with the spring game on Saturday, April 9. The outdoor track season concludes with the USATF Outdoor Championships in late June.
Once the outdoor season begins, Morano said Stewart could compete in the 100 meters with the possibility of moving him up to the 200 meters, as well as the 4x100-meter relay team.
"But his time in spring football is going to really hinder that," Morano said. "We need to take a good hard look at that when the time comes, but yeah, I can definitely see him helping us on the relay. He's serious about getting faster, he's serious about helping us - and that's what we like to see."
In indoor competition, the 60-meter dash is among the Buffs' stronger events. Stewart will be competing with sophomore Joe Morris and juniors A.J. Whitaker and Quinton Dodson. Morris recently set a school record (6.63 seconds) in the 60-meter dash at the Potts Invitational. At the time, Morris' performance was the third-fastest in NCAA Division I. With timings of 6.72 seconds and 6.80 seconds, respectively, Whitaker and Dodson also recently set personal records.
"He's got some really, really good competition just within the team," Morano said. "We have three guys in the Top 20 in the Big 12 right now, so we're doing very well."
Morano said Stewart had a very early timing of 7.10 seconds in the 60 meters, but noted Stewart has spent some Saturdays this winter "doing some one-on-one stuff" with the other sprinters. "They've been helping him with his starts. The guys on team have really taken it upon themselves to help him out in this. We hope to get him in this weekend at Air Force and we'll find out where he is."
Morano seemed confident that any potential conflicts between indoor track and spring football could be resolved: "It's just something that we're going to have to deal with as it comes. But (football) said they're willing to work with us and will try to get him out here to practice."
Also, once the Buffs begin contact, how much time Stewart can devote to track might have to be reevaluated. "When we get in pads, we'll see how it goes," he said.
Under Embree, who was hired Dec. 6 to replace Dan Hawkins, the Buffs will be introducing a new offense during spring drills. That also could become a factor, but Stewart said he "feels comfortable in almost any offense" and is confident of picking up new sets and terminology.
In addition to Stewart, the Buffs have five returning running backs - redshirt freshmen Cordary Allen, Tony Jones and Trea' Jones; sophomore Quentin Hildreth; and senior Brian Lockridge.
The 5-foot-6, 175-pound Stewart surpassed 1,000 yards rushing (1,318) in 2010 and scored 10 touchdowns. As a sophomore in 2009, he ran for 804 yards and nine TDs, and despite missing the final three games of his freshman season in 2008 with a broken leg, he finished with 622 yards and a pair of rushing TDs.