HOUSTON – At one point, Houston track and field coach Leroy Burrell held the title of “Fastest Man in the World.”
“Well you know, somewhere along the way someone created that term, but somewhere on Earth there had to be someone faster,” said Burrell.
Burrell’s 9.90 in June of 1991 set a world record that was eventually broken by Carl Lewis. Burrell went even lower, breaking Lewis’ 9.86 with a 9.85 in 1994.
Despite being one of the greatest sprinters of all time, Burrell grew up wanting to play another sport.
“I was really into baseball, I wanted to play baseball, but I’m legally blind, and so, I was a terrible baseball player,” said Burrell. “My baseball coach told me that I was faster than anybody on the team and that I should go ahead and run track.”
That very smart baseball coach led Burrell down a gold-medal path, and now, that path has led him to be the man taking over the University of Houston’s program from legendary coach Tom Tellez in 1998.
“It’s a tremendous honor and something that, every day, I feel it’s a bit of a measuring stick,” said Burrell, who has been measuring up by coaching Olympians like his mentor.
With much career success both as a competitor and coach, this Black History Month, Burrell wants people to understand each other’s differences.
“I talk about ‘intimacy,’ but I see it as ‘into-me-see,’ so you kind of look into that person’s heart and try to get a feel for what their feelings are,” said Burrell. “I don’t think we do enough of that.”
Burrell is pleased with where his program is headed. The 2021 Houston Track and Field team is young, but Burrell believes they are more talented than in previous years.