The double life: Cunidiff competes in two sports
For most young aspiring athletes, their dream is to one day play sports in college. Some make it while others seem to fall into the cracks, but for Jaylyn Cundiff, he made his dream come true twice.
A five-foot-eight, 150-pound freshman out of Brockton, Mass, Cundiff is a member of both the football team and the track and field team. In football, he is a slot receiver who returns kicks and punts and in track and field, he is a long jumper.
Cundiff said his choice to compete in two sports was inspired by his father in order to better his college odds.
“My junior year of high school my dad told me I had to do two sports,” said Cundiff on his decision. “He said that was going to push me to get into college.”
Cundiff did not see much action as a wide receiver last season. However, he was one of his team’s top returners in the special teams unit. He had a standout performance on Sept. 29 against Saint Anselm, where he returned four punts for 98 yards including a 50-yard touchdown return. The Owls went on to blow-out the Hawks and win the game 43-7.
Cundiff said football has always been his top sport, but he would not have gotten to where he is now without becoming a track athlete as well.
“Senior year, after football, I wasn’t getting the looks that I wanted,” he said. “So, I did track in high school seriously. It pushed me to get here.”
In high school, Cundiff was an all-scholastic honoree, athlete of the year for track and field, and currently holds his high school’s long jump record.
As a college freshman, Cundiff earned his first career rookie of the week honors after placing first in the long jump at the UConn Northeast Challenge out of 21 participants, 17 of which were Division I athletes.
For Cundiff, the decision he made as a high school junior to play two sports was an easy one, as he knew it was his best chance of achieving his dream of becoming a collegiate athlete.
“Not really,” he said when asked if the decision gave him any doubts or concerns. “I’m already an athlete, I like running, so I looked to track to help me out with football a lot.”
Head track and field coach John Wallin is no stranger to coaching dual athletes. Wallin, though he does not know the exact number of athletes, has coached plenty in his days during his time at Southern alone.
“We’ve had a couple,” said Wallin. “We had a kid on the soccer team, some football players, right now we have like, four dual sport athletes between soccer and track and then football and track.”
With dual sport athletes, there is a lot of extra communication between each of the team’s coaching staffs, Wallin said he and football head coach Tom Godek will talk on a regular basis.
“We talk a lot about what we both expect moving forward from our athlete,” Wallin said. “We probably talk everyday about our mutual athlete. It’s important that all the coaches are on the same page; we want to make sure we’re doing what’s in the best interest of the athlete.”
For Wallin, coaching an athlete like Cundiff is a privilege. Wallin sees Cundiff is motivated to do well in everything he does, not just athletics. However, as an athlete, Wallin believes Cundiff is a special talent.
“Jaylyn’s the perfect example of a guy that can do two sports,” said Wallin. “He takes himself serious. He acts like a professional even though he’s a freshman which is great because I would think that most freshman coming in would struggle with being a two-sport athlete.”
Cundiff has high praise for all his coaches, as they have all helped shape him as the athlete he is and push him to be the athlete he can become. Cundiff gives credit to Wallin for helping him get to Southern.
“He was the biggest help here,” Cundiff said. “He actually got me to this school, I had never even heard of Southern Connecticut until after I started doing track. He helped me out a lot with the scholarship of the year, so he made everything affordable.”