A standout two-sport athlete, Rickey Hyatt Jr. not only had to decide which college to attend, but also what sport to play.

The 2020 Westerville Central graduate was recruited to play football by several colleges and recruited to compete in track and field by many others, but ultimately chose to play football for the University of Kentucky as a safety.

"As I got older, I had to narrow down which sports I wanted to play, so I stopped playing basketball and I started to focus on track and football," Hyatt said. "Once I got to my sophomore year in high school, I had a determination in life that I'm going to be on a grind, I'm going to go after it and I'm going to take every advantage I have.

"When I got to the point where I had to choose between track and football, I chose football because that just made a lot more sense. I feel like my bread and butter is a little bit more in football than it is in track."

Last year in track, Hyatt placed third in the 300-meter hurdles (38.15 seconds) and 13th in the long jump (20 feet, 9 1/4 inches) in the Division I state meet.

He was hoping to earn a return trip to state as a senior this season, but the OHSAA canceled spring sports because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Hyatt holds the program's outdoor records in the 300 hurdles (38.01) and long jump (23-8 1/4) and helped set the program record in the 1,600 relay (3:19.18). He also ranks second in the 110 hurdles (14.69) in program history behind 2014 graduate Michael Bisaha (14.24).

Hyatt also holds the program's indoor records in the 60 hurdles (8.07) and long jump (21-11) and helped set the program record in the 800 relay (1:28.26).

"I know Rickey was hoping to challenge that record in the 110 hurdles," boys track coach Jason Loughman said.

Hyatt capped his prep career by finishing third in both the 60 hurdles (8.07) and long jump (21-8) in the state indoor meet March 7 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva.

He had qualified to compete in the Indoor New Balance Nationals in March in New York City, but the event was canceled because of the pandemic.

A running back and defensive back for the football team, Hyatt rushed for a team-high 736 yards and nine touchdowns on 117 carries last season and was named first-team all-district, second-team all-OCC-Buckeye Division and third-team all-state.

"Rickey brought a lot to our team," football coach Brent Morrison said. "He's one of the most athletic kids to ever come through Central. He'll have a great career at Kentucky. He provided some explosive plays for us over the years.

"He's definitely a very talented kid and could have had a lot of options out there if he really wanted to pursue track."

Hyatt will be the fourth Warhawk to play football at Kentucky, joining 2016 graduate Benny Snell (RB), 2014 graduate Nick Richardson (OL) and 2013 graduate Charlie Moushey (special teams/WR).

Snell is preparing for his second season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I've talked to a few Kentucky alumni," Hyatt said. "I've talked to Benny. I've been talking to him about the program. Kentucky picked someone that went to my high school, someone who had really great aspirations and desires in life. They got him to the NFL. ... I know when I get (to Kentucky), I have to get in that grind."

"This has created a pipeline that's pretty neat to see," Morrison said.

Moushey also competed in the pole vault for Kentucky's men's track team.

"I know (Hyatt) signed with Kentucky for football, but there were a ton of colleges that wanted him to come and be on their track and field team," Loughman said. "Kentucky might even try and work something out or talk him into it."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank