Francis Joseph Budd
Born: July 20, 1939 (Long Branch, New Jersey)
Died: April 29, 2014 (Marlton, New Jersey)
Frank Budd earned the title of world’s fastest man after running the 100-yard dash in 9.2 seconds in 1961. He later turned professional to play football, including a two-year stint with the Calgary Stampeders. It was said the man with the fastest feet in the world also had the worst hands.
Born in New Jersey to a chauffeur and a nurse, Budd overcame kidney and liver problems, as well as a right calf notably smaller than the right, to become an American track star.
In the 4-by-100-metre relay, Budd opened strongly for the American team only to pass the baton to Ray Norton beyond the passing zone. What would have been a record time instead led to a disqualification.
Budd, a senior at Villanova University, a track powerhouse under coach James (Jumbo) Elliott, set a world record in the 100-yard race the following year at the national Amateur Athletic Union championships held at Downing Stadium on Randalls Island in New York City.
Harry Jerome of Vancouver, who held the world record in the 100-metre dash, matched Budd’s mark in 1962, becoming the only runner to hold both of those world records simultaneously. Jerome and Budd were frequent competitors.
Budd was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round (No. 96 overall) of the 1962 NFL draft despite not having played a single down of college football. (He had played football and basketball at Asbury Park High, where he was also a track star. He promised his father he would drop football if he gained a track scholarship, which he did.)
He played in four games with the Eagles as a wide receiver, catching five passes for 130 yards with one touchdown against the Washington Redskins. He played in eight games for Washington in 1963, again catching five passes for 106 yards.
After missing a season, the 5-foot-10, 187-pound athlete was coaxed by Calgary coach Jerry Williams to return to the game. Out of shape, he had an undistinguished training camp, collapsing after running the mile in 7 1/2 minutes. He had even been beaten by Don Luzzi, a 250-pound tackle. After getting into condition, Budd was used as a split end. In his first CFL game, he caught a 70-yard bomb from quarterback Eagle Day. He gave the Stampeders a deep threat, scoring four TDs in his first eight games, all longer than 35 yards.
“I’m a married man with a family, and football can blow hot and cold,” he said in 1965. “If you’re not a first-stringer and get an injury, you’re cut. Without an offseason job it’s tough to make ends meet.
“I was disappointed at not being able to make it with the Eagles and Redskins because I’ve always loved football. I knew I had a lot to learn because I couldn’t play college ball and be a track man, too.
“People just told me, ‘Go catch the ball,’ but when I dropped it no one would tell me what I was doing wrong.”
He said he liked his treatment in Calgary.
“I’m still rusty but everyone is patient when I goof,” he said. “When I drop the ball no one complains, they just try to help me out.”
In 1965, he had 20 catches for 468 yards, a 23.4 average. The following season he had 18 catches for 423 yards, a 23.5 average. He had six touchdowns in his CFL career, despite having suffered a shoulder injury and a pulled hamstring.
Away from the gridiron, he worked for the Philadelphia parks department and for a casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
Players of his generation considered him to be the fastest men ever to play in the CFL.
“He ran right by me once,” veteran player and coach Bob O’Billovich recalled in 1988. “I was embarrassed because I had an angle on him and I thought I had him. But he didn’t have great hands.”