Iowa's high-flying leaper stays grounded

BY TORK MASON | MARCH 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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Troy Doris is a three-time NCAA All-American in the triple jump, but you might not know it if you knew the way he approaches the sport.

Assistant coach Clive Roberts considers the senior captain a "great Hawkeye," mostly because of his dedication.

"The kid is probably the most talented kid we've got, but he really works his butt off," Roberts said. "I wish we had a team of him; he brings a real blue-collar attitude to this team."

That mentality is nothing new for Doris. Older brother Ryan Doris — who competed at Northern Illinois after claiming the Illinois high-school championship in the triple jump as a senior at Bolingbrook High — says his younger brother has long approached everything he does with that mindset.

"We were both very dedicated kids," Ryan Doris said. "There are times I remember watching the world-record jump by Jonathan Edwards, Troy and I, just breaking down every part of that video for four or five hours — and never being bored. We were just obsessive."

The Illinois state track meet is typically held the same week as prom in Bolingbrook. There wasn't any problem for the younger Doris brother.

"For him, it was never a debate," Ryan Doris said. "He said as a freshman, 'I'm never going to prom, because I'm going to be at the state meet.' He's totally accepted the work he's got to do and the sacrifices he has to make to be as good as he wants to be."

That hard work seemed to pay off for Troy Doris, who was a two-time state champion in the triple jump and placed third as a sophomore when his brother won the title. He had his choice of virtually any school in the country when deciding where to attend college.

"I had letters from every school you can probably think of," he said. "It was crazy. I was going to commit to Arkansas, initially."

But there was a problem.

The NCAA Clearinghouse — where prospective student-athletes must go to be cleared for eligibility — declared Doris ineligible for a scholarship. He was missing required classes on his transcript, so he had to attend the College of DuPage — a junior college in Glen Ellyn, Ill. — where he won a pair of national championships and earned All-America honors six times in two years.

Ryan Doris said part of the problem was that he and his younger brother never looked very far ahead when it came to jumping.

"When we got started, we had no clue about the NCAA Clearinghouse," he said. "We really had no one to tell us 'Hey, you'll get so skilled, you'll get a scholarship.' We didn't really think about [being at that level]."

Ryan Doris said his brother's inner hunger to put things in order academically stemmed from seeing other athletes take "his spot" at the NCAA meet. He wanted to compete and be recognized for the athlete he was, Ryan Doris said.

But Troy Doris said he was able to turn that into a positive experience in a different way, too.

"I feel like a lot of things happen for a reason," he said. "It made me a better student and made me appreciate the opportunities I have — I can't just take them for granted. It was something I really needed, because when I was 15, 18 years old, I didn't realize stuff like that."

That realization played a role in how he ended up in Iowa City. Doris said Roberts was one of the few coaches who talked about academics, and that was a major factor in his decision to become a Hawkeye.

"I just felt like I could trust him," Doris said. "He never really, truly talked about track; he just talked a lot about getting me into school and what he wants for me to get out of school."

That approach fits well with the values instilled by his mother, Tessa Franco.

"Our mom is never impressed," Ryan Doris said. "You could win the Olympics, and she'd be like, 'Oh, great. Good job.' What impresses our mom is what kind of a man you are and how humble you've stayed. And he's a super-humble kid — a regular guy who's good at the triple jump.

"And that's how we've always seen him."

Follow DI men's track reporter Tork Mason on Twitter.

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