NORTHRIDGE — Marcus Bivines hasn't played a down of football since he was a high school senior in 1995, but he will be the most physically talented player for Cal State Northridge this season.
So says Jeff McAuley, an assistant track and field coach at Northridge who was instrumental in helping the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Bivines transfer from Oklahoma.
"This kid is incredible," McAuley said. "He's one of the most explosive athletes I've ever seen. . . . He's the best athlete they've got on that [football] team by far."
Bivines, who ran the first leg on Oklahoma's 400-meter relay team that placed fifth in the 1997 NCAA championships, will be one of about 50 incoming players who will undergo a series of strength and agility tests at North Campus Stadium today.
The group will begin two-a-day practices Saturday, with returning players starting Monday.
Although Bivines never suited up for a football game at Oklahoma, first-year Northridge Coach Ron Ponciano is drooling over Bivines' reported 4.3-second time in the 40-yard dash, 42-inch vertical leap and 3% body-fat measurement.
Bivines is eligible to play football at Northridge this season because the Matadors compete at the NCAA Division I-AA level and Oklahoma is a Division I-A school.
"He must have told me a hundred times that he didn't think he was going to be able to come out here," McAuley said. "But he was pretty determined."
Christina Tolson was partly responsible for that.
Tolson, Northridge record holder in the women's hammer throw, met Bivines at the 1997 NCAA track championships and they maintained a long-distance relationship until Bivines moved to California.
Bivines' immediate goal is to show Northridge's football coaches that he can excel at running back.
"I told him that we were pretty deep at that position," Ponciano said.
"But he just wants a chance to make it at running back. If it doesn't work out there, he said he'll do whatever we need him to do. . .
"I think he could definitely help us at cornerback."