Isles has Olympics, NFL as future goals

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
4:40
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He seemed annoyed at it for a second -- not the question exactly but the response he had to give.

[+] EnlargeCarlin Isles, Renaud Delmas
AP Photo/Kin CheungLions practice squad addition Carlin Isles has incorporated football into his rugby regimen.
Yes, Carlin Isles did run a 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds during his tryout with the Detroit Lions earlier this week. And yes, he was disappointed he didn't run faster than that. Because he says he can, and from watching his highlight videos from his time with the United States rugby team that is completely believable.

This is why the Lions, who made noise earlier this year by bringing in Havard Rugland (aka Kickalicious) to training camp, are taking a chance by signing the receiver who can also be a returner and a cornerback to their practice squad.

At this point, with nothing left to lose in this failure of a season for the Detroit Lions from the perspective of the playoffs, why not try someone out who has a ton of uncoached talent to see what he can do?

"That's more than anything, take a look," Detroit offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "See his background in football and how he responds to look teams and things like that. Right now is too early to say where he could go from here."

Isles is intriguing on many levels. He started playing football at age 8 and played through high school and his first two years at Division II Ashland University. Isles said he could play either returner role, wide receiver, cornerback or even running back. He played the latter two positions at Ashland.

But after football at Ashland, he shifted to track and, eventually, rugby, where he is a member of the United States national team for rugby sevens.

It was there where his YouTube highlights -- one of which has over 5 million views -- caught the attention of a lot of people and made him a bit of a sensation. And it is rugby where he also has a shot at the Olympics.

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, where sevens rugby will be a medal sport, is one of his goals.

"2016 is a big deal for me," Isles said. "That's a goal of mine, but playing in the NFL is a blessing, too."

He said he trained for football by incorporating it into his rugby training. After this season ends Sunday, he'll go back to rugby training in advance of the fourth and fifth rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Las Vegas Jan. 24-26, then Wellington, New Zealand, Feb. 7-8.

And if an NFL team wanted to sign him to a futures deal following the season? He'd discuss it with his rugby coaches. After all, growing up he used to watch Devin Hester and Calvin Johnson play.

Then on Thursday, he got to have a conversation with one of them -- Johnson -- and even had him hit him with pads during the team's practice.

"Man, being in an NFL locker room has been a true blessing for me, man," Isles said. "Watching these guys on TV and coming here and to see them in person, it's outstanding and it's a shocker for me.

"I never would have thought in my life I would be right here in the NFL. It's always like a little kid's dream coming up. To me, to make it to real and people coming up to me back home and across the state, I'm very happy."

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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