When Justin Gatlin was handed an eight-year ban from track and field for doping in 2006, he had to choose a new career. He was 24 and he had won an Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters, so Gatlin tried ... football.

In 2007, the Saints and Buccaneers gave him tryouts. Gatlin didn't make either roster, but he had memorable experiences on NFC South practice fields.

"I didn't know how to run a route at all," Gatlin remembers. "Actually -- Sean Payton -- I was there this past weekend, just to go say thank you to him about helping me to want to achieve an NFL career. He gave me my first chance. Then I went over to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and got on the mini-camp thing, and it was something I'll never forget. It was a good change of pace, different atmosphere and it actually put a lot of things in perspective for me."

Gatlin's relationship with then-Bucs coach Jon Gruden was a bit different. Gruden needled Gatlin in front of the team.

Justin Gatlin

"I had a nickname from the beginning," Gatlin says. "When we were in the room watching highlight films from practices, my name wasn't Justin. It was Gold Medal. 'Gold Medal, why are you running out the frame so fast? Gold Medal, this is the route you need to run. Oh, that was a good route, Gold Medal.' We had a good time with that. It was serious, but at the end, the guys knew I came in with some credential and I was there to learn and take everything in."

Gatlin returned to track in 2010 when his suspension was reduced to four years. He won a bronze medal in the 100 meters at the 2012 Olympics and a silver in 2016. At the world championships last month, Gatlin won gold, with Usain Bolt coming in third.

So track ended up working out, but that brief NFL stint taught Gatlin some of the game's finer points.

"My whole thing was to kind of take myself, embody myself into a wide receiver," Gatlin says. "I learned how to run the route tree correctly. Run my nines, my tens and sixes and eights, and how to have a ten-and-out, wheel route, all those kind of things, the cadence of it. A lot of people think you're fast and you're a 100-meter sprinter, so you can be a wide receiver.

"Contrary to popular belief, a 400-meter runner is way more fitting for a wide receiver role because it's almost like running repeat 100s. You're running a route to your full potential, you're also getting bumped off the line by a grown man and you have to come back to the huddle, get ready for the next play, then you got to run that the same way. Next play, run that the same way, next play, run that the same way. It's all really about endurance and actually governing your speed."

Gatlin spoke to ThePostGame in New York City last week while promoting the Justin Gatlin Foundation. Gatlin launched his foundation with a youth sprint clinic in Staten Island on Sept. 23.

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