Commentary

Former college fullback keeps running for Red Bull pit crews

Former college football player Mike Metcalf still gets in the thick of the competition as the gas man for the No. 84 team.

Updated: November 18, 2008, 2:50 PM ET
By Brett Borden | Special to ESPN.com

Mike Metcalf suffered two knee injuries and one heartbreak as a football player at Appalachian State University. The cause of the heartbreak? He left the school just one year before it started its current run of three state national championships. He almost took a redshirt, which would have allowed him to play on that first team in 2005.

Mike Metcalf

•  Sprint Cup team: No. 84 Red Bull Racing [driven by Scott Speed]

• Age: 26

• Job: Gas man, assembly teardown

"I'm still kicking myself for not doing that," he said.

Now he gets his kicks in another sport ... NASCAR. Working in assembly teardown at the shop [he breaks pieces down after mechanics put everything together], he has quite a different job on the weekends. Metcalf, who once carried the football as a running back, now carries the gas can and the tires as the gas man for the No. 84 Red Bull Racing team.

His work as the gas man doesn't just involve pit stops.

"I have to make sure the valves, tanks, fuel scales and fuel rags are all good to go," said Metcalf, who was recently recruited from Red Bull's other team where he served as the catch can man. "Plus we go over gas mileage in the practice sessions."

When race day comes, that old friend that helped him so much in football ... adrenaline ... comes to his aid in racing, too. Not only does he have to get the gas into the tank as quickly as possible, he has to do it safely. It requires dexterity, strength, and overall athleticism that he didn't know even existed in NASCAR before he came aboard.

[+] EnlargeMike Metcalf and No. 83 crew
Rusty Jarrett/ NASCAR/Getty ImagesMike Metcalf, right, helped push the No. 83 team to victory at the Pit Crew Challenge this year.
Not only that, if the pit stop calls for less than eight gallons of fuel, he's running around the front of the car getting tires. He gets the rear ones on a regular basis.

It's much different than taking an oblong ball and running toward 11 men who want to bring him down. He said the biggest challenge of his new sport isn't adjusting to that particular difference, though.

"It's the big gaps between action," Metcalf said. "It can take 20-30 minutes between pit stops, and yet you have to be on your toes that whole time in case something happens. Compare that to football, where you go at it hard for 10 seconds or so, then 30-40 seconds later you're at it again."

With great challenge comes great reward, though. Just as in football, teamwork is everything on Pit Road. And much like an offensive line, the pit crew paves the way for the success of the team.

"We consider ourselves to be like a SWAT team," said Metcalf, who was part of the No. 83 Red Bull team that won the Pit Crew Challenge in May. "The most rewarding part of this job is doing everything over and over in practice and seeing it pay off on race day."

It might not replace the national championship trophies he just missed out on at Appalachian State, but then again that fulfillment doesn't collect dust on the mantel over the fireplace, either.

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