Former UGA Track Star signs with Falcons

- The odds of making an NFL roster for any college football player are extremely low.

Imagine the odds of trying to play in the NFL for an athlete who didn’t play college football.

But a former UGA track star hopes to make his impossible dream come true.

The Atlanta Falcons have signed former Bulldog track and field All-American Garrett Scantling to a free agent contract, according to a team announcement by the defending NFC champions.

Scantling, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., competed for Georgia’s track and field team from 2012-16 after graduating from Episcopal High School. He last played receiver in high school during the 2010 season.

“This is truly a chance of a lifetime,” said Scantling, who was announcing the Bulldog Decathlon/Heptathlon in Athens over the weekend when he got the news.  “I have gone through the most unorthodox path to get to here and I can’t wait to go out there and show everybody what ‘football me’ can do.”

A UGA graduate in Financial Planning during the spring of 2016, Scantling is one of the primary reasons the Bulldog combined events program has been considered the nation’s best as he was a four-time First Team All-American in Athens. He became the first Southeastern Conference competitor in history to win three league heptathlon titles indoors, including setting a meet record in 2015.

Scantling also finished in the top three at the NCAA Indoor Championships three times, including a runner-up finish in 2015 with a school record 6,068 points. This score put him No. 10 on the all-time collegiate list. Outdoors, he highlighted his Bulldog career with a fourth-place finish in the decathlon at the 2014 NCAA meet and stands third in the school record books with 8,232 points. Scantling completed his career at the No. 11 spot on the outdoor collegiate all-time list in the decathlon.

During the summer of 2016, Scantling scored 8,228 points in the decathlon at the U.S. Olympic Trials, which put him one spot out of qualifying for Team USA before the Rio Games.

“I am so fired up about Garrett and this new chapter in his life,” said Bulldog head track and field coach Petros Kyprianou, who directly coached Scantling. “He has been a true Bulldog since day one and we are very thankful to he and his family, especially his parents Michael and Robbie, for entrusting their son to me. When I recruited Garrett, I didn’t even look at any track and field video but only the football highlight he sent me. I remember saying to then head coach, Wayne Norton that this guy is a sleeper and we have to somehow get him.

“We brought him on a visit and that was it. I am glad we ‘stole’ him away from football but I feel his training as a decathlete sharpened his physical skills and I am happy Falcons’ coach Dan Quinn could see this. This move does not surprise me as I know Garrett as an athlete and his athleticism can help him excel at any sport. The NFL is an entirely different game but he has been through the decathlon at the Olympic Trials level. I don’t think it gets tougher than that since those guys have 10 grueling events to train for.

“Decathletes by nature are tough and persistent and, in my opinion, the best all-around athletes in the world. Garrett will continue to be here in Athens and will have my support in any way he needs it.”

While at Episcopal in Jacksonville, Scantling caught 66 passes for 13 touchdowns and more than 1,200 yards during his senior season.

Scantling’s older brother, Michael Jr., pitched for Florida State’s baseball team and was drafted in the 14th round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers. Their dad, Michael Sr., played football for Valdosta State.

Georgia Sports Communications contributed to this report

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