A different double play for some ACC athletes

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Playing two college sports at a high level takes much more than the love of the games.

North Carolina State quarterback and infielder Russell Wilson is getting it done.

So is Clemson quarterback and outfielder Kyle Parker.

They are the latest in a line of versatile Atlantic Coast Conference players who have managed to excel in two sports.

“I love them both, and I get the same enjoyment out of them both,” Wilson said. “That’s why I play them.”

But it’s not that simple.

Coaches must be open-minded. Teammates must be understanding. And the players themselves must possess perseverance, meticulous organization and a steely focus.

“Time-management-wise, you’re not playing two at a time _ you’re playing one at a time,” said Rusty LaRue, a former two-sport star at Wake Forest. “But you don’t get the break that everybody else gets when the season ends. Guys get a little bit of a break, and they get to go into offseason mode where it’s just lifting and running.

“The multi-sport guys, you end on one day (and) the next day, you’re still going to practice for three hours, and there’s not that sort of down time that all the other athletes get.”

LaRue would know. He played quarterback for the Demon Deacons from 1992-95, and set the Bowl Subdivision record by completing 55 passes in a game. He also led the basketball team to four NCAA tournament berths before beginning a five-year NBA career that included a championship with the Chicago Bulls.

Of course, there have been other ACC multi-sport athletes.

Charlie Ward won a Heisman Trophy at Florida State before spending a decade as an NBA point guard. The Seminoles’ Deion Sanders remains the only player to start in the World Series and the Super Bowl.

“It’s impressive, and I always like to see guys doing it,” LaRue said. “I think there’s probably more kids who could do it, but it’s not for everybody, because it can be difficult at times.”

The physical skills from one sport might not necessarily translate to another, though having a strong arm always helps both quarterbacks and baseball players.

More important are those intangibles: Leadership, mental toughness, maturity and self-discipline.

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