DURHAM — After four seasons playing linebacker for the Duke football team, Austin Gamble is free to focus his athletic efforts on perhaps his best sport.
If all goes according to plan, Gamble could be an NCAA champion in discus in a little more than one year.
“This year, if he can become an All-American at the NCAA championships, I think that’s a good step,” said B.J. Linnenbrink, an assistant track and field coach at Duke who is in charge of the team’s throwers.
“And then next year, I really think we could put him in position to be a national champion,” Linnenbrink said. “I think he’s got the skill, he’s got the desire, and he’s got the technical prowess as a thrower. I think all of those things are there.”
The immediate challenge for Gamble is to qualify for next month’s NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Eugene, Ore. The Florida native will compete in the NCAA’s preliminary round in Greensboro on Thursday, starting at 10 a.m. The top 12 competitors in the country will advance to nationals.
Gamble qualified as a freshman but not as a sophomore. After stepping away from discus last spring to concentrate on his final football season, Gamble is enjoying a strong redshirt junior campaign.
He broke the school record four times in 2013, improving his personal best from 181 feet to 190 feet, 6 inches. Gamble also finished second in the ACC championships, though his top throw was more than nine feet less than his personal best.
“I’m happy with the improvement I made this season,” said Gamble, who made 36 tackles and recovered a fumble for the Blue Devils last fall.
Discus was important enough to Gamble that he didn’t commit to play football for Duke before asking David Cutcliffe if he could also throw for the track and field team in the spring.
Cutcliffe agreed, but the realities of college football prevented Gamble from putting in the time necessary to realize his potential in throwing.
Gamble had to add a second major in order to compete in discus next season. As a result, he’ll graduate next spring with degrees in evolutionary anthropology and visual art.
He’ll also hope for something more.
“I’m excited for next year,” Gamble said. “I think the possibilities are whatever I set for myself.”