I got a call Saturday from a friend who works at AM850 in Gainesville. He had a story but because of the cozy relationship between the station and football team, he was not allowed to reveal it. Unable to keep the secret any longer, he told me some of the facts. I have provided additional reporting. -mlm
Heat rises on an unseasonably warm day in February. Football grad assistant Trevor `Dutch' Schultz is walking down Stadium Drive towards Weimer Hall after leaving the Gator Corner dining hall. As he walks Schultz sees a tall African-American man take a cell phone away from his ear and start sprinting towards him. Schultz steps aside as the man ("He looks nothing like a college kid," according to Schultz) flies past him in soccer sandals with his backpack bouncing around. Schultz never saw his face, but he saw where the man started his sprint and ended it and he knew about how long it took.
After counting his paces a dozen times and trying to count back the seconds in his head, Schultz kept coming up with the same ratio; 115 in 10. He just saw a student at UF run 115 yards uphill in 10 seconds. In sandals. It was superhuman.
Probably 70 people saw Fnsi Dchdi run from the front of Weil Hall to the corner of Stadium and Lemerand, pause to let a bus pass, then disappear into Gator Corner. But only Schultz thought enough to follow him. It was Schultz who was credited by the football staff for creating the Fastest Student Contest. Schultz had walked on at Stony Brook after out running the wide receivers in spring practice and knew there were kids at Florida who could do it too. Now he found one. Hell, he might have found the next World's Fastest Man.
Fnsi Dchdi runs in the 1500 meters for St. Anthony's Prepatory School; Hampshire, London.
Pete Weith was still in the dining hall when he saw Schultz walk in. His roommate Dchdi (pronounced Da-ch-dee) had come in, got four oranges, said hello and left. He saw Schultz going to each table; "Did you see a black guy just come in? White shirt, sandals?" Weith was protective of his roommate, once he realized how shy he was and the strange circumstances that brought him to Gainesville. He confronted Schultz.
"You got a problem or something? Who do you need to speak to?" Weith tried to be intimidating but it wasn't working for the freshman.
"Actually, I do need to speak to someone," Schultz said. He began to explain the flash that flew past him and into Gator Corner. Schultz said he was a grad assistant for Dan Mullen and wanted to meet the guy who he just saw run a world record time. Weith started to laugh and asked if Schultz had some time that afternoon.
"Please, don't feel sorry for him, but don't be too pushy either," Weith said. As they walked towards the honors dorms, Weith talked about the journey Dchdi made from Liberia to London and now to Gainesville. He hadn't been able to figure out much, but Weith had learned that Dchdi was taken out of Liberia in 1999 at the height of their civil war. Dchdi's parents had been killed and his uncle arranged to have him enter England seeking political asylum. The only thing he had left to remember his parents by was a huge diamond, worn on a necklace. The diamond had been in his family for years and it was Dchdi's responsibility to protect. He cut a fold in his thigh, sewed the stone in, and escaped to England without Liberia's violent diamond dealers ever suspecting anything.
Running for London's St. Anthony Prep, Dchdi found an outlet outside of school. But he was stuck in the distance races after his coaches assumed he was like the Kenyans and could run the mile. A few poor finishes and he left the team to focus on his studies. When his uncle took a position as an African History teacher at UF, he asked if Dchdi could be provided a scholarship. Dchdi's 1500 SAT score clinched it. As everyone else in his life though, his uncle would be gone early. One month before they would leave for Florida, his uncle died in a car accident on England's notorious A59 road. Dchdi buried his uncle, and came to Florida with a suitcase and a scholarship.
"I think he's brilliant," said Lindsey Newsome, Dchdi's honors advisor. "He writes beautifully and he's one of the few kids I've ever seen do well in accounting. But he never speaks!
"Looking at him, you know there is something going on that he doesn't want you to know about," Newsome continued. "I know how children in Liberia were used to smuggle diamonds and weapons. Actually, that's probably why he's afraid to show how fast he is. It reminds him of war and violence."
Fast can be measured and when Schultz had Dchdi run 40 yards on Hume Field, it barely measured. Former Redskins defensive back Darrell Green was reported to have run a 4.09 40. Dchdi just ran it in 4.07. "Do it one more time, Fens," Schultz said, using the nickname Weith used for the Liberian. Weith held Schultz's phone to record video. When he dropped his hand to cue Dchdi, Schultz expected a slower time as the wind was in the runner's face. He was wrong. It was 4.01.
"Oh my God," Schultz covered his face, not wanting to believe what his timer flashed. He turned to Weith, who was grinning with his hands folded across his chest. "You need to get this guy to run for the team. And don't tell anyone about this."
On the first day of the speed trials, Weith showed up without Dchdi. Schultz left a drill to come across the field and ask what was going on. "This better be good. Coach Mullen cries tears of joy when he watches that video every morning."
"Look, something happened in our international relations class today," Weith said. Immediately Schultz started thinking about what Newsome said about former kid soldiers and how they might react violently in common society. He was thinking how good of a cornerback Dchdi could be. "No, you idiot, he didn't get in a fight," Weith said. "Some frat guy went off on a rant about the U.S. sending stuff to Africa. Fens went off on him. He's upset and now he thinks all frat guys are racists or something."
Schultz saw an opening. "Well, we got one more speed trial after today. Tell Fens if he doesn't run, a frat guy is going to win this."
Dchdi was told by Weith about the guys running in the first speed trials. After he heard who might win, Dchdi calmly told his roommate, his bass filling the room, "I will run."
"All he has been talking about is the speed trials," Weith said. "We go out onto Hume Field when no one is out there and he just runs. It's unbelievable. You see this big black kid in just shorts and shoes hauling ass. He's getting faster too. One morning I clocked him at 3.99. It's like Secretariat in the Belmont. He's moving like a tremendous machine."
Yesterday, Weith emailed me when I told him I was writing the story and he said Dchdi will be running April 3rd. "But it's weird," Weith wrote. "For him, it's not about winning anymore, he just wants people to know he can do it. I know the readers may not get how fast he is. I'll tell you something though, they'll just have to see it to believe it."
Now that Percy Harvin may be out for spring with a heel injury, UF might need a new body at receiver.
Update [2008-4-3 13:30:3 by mlmintampa]: Yes, this is an April Fools' joke. There are two huge hints that it is a joke. Can you find them?