An interesting stat came out of the 2015 NFL Draft — out of the 256 players who were selected, 224 played multiple sports in high school. With the growth of sport specialization throughout the nation, these number may seem surprising, but they actually back up a trend that holds true across all sports: most elite pro athletes still chose to play multiple sports growing up instead of specializing.

So why is that? Aren’t the athletes who live, sleep, and breathe their sport supposed to be the ones who make it to the top? A recent study from the University of Wisconsin went a long way toward explaining this trend. The preliminary findings discovered that athletes who were highly specialized were more likely to have a history of knee or hip injuries and 26% more likely to suffer an injury of any kind than their multi-sport peers.  Multi-sport athletes seem to be more well-rounded and able to withstand the physicality of in-game action better.

To help us understand the topic ever more, we questioned some of our Eastbay athletes, and their answers were pretty unanimous: the other sports they played during middle school and high school have paid huge dividends in their careers today.

Brandon Marshall, New York Wide Receiver

Brandon Marshall

“I definitely think playing other sports gives you an edge in your one particular sport, mine being football. Basketball gave me the agility, bounce, and hand-eye control from rebounding the ball. It transfers onto the football field when I’m in the red zone, we throw a fade route, and it’s a jump ball. To me, that’s just like playing basketball and boxing my defender out. Track helped with my explosion and speed.”

Amari Cooper, Oakland Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper

“Running track was my first sport. It gave me a lot of endurance and mental strength. When we run sprints in practice, I never really get tired. With basketball, going up and getting rebounds has helped me with high-pointing the football.”

Landon Collins, New York Safety

Landon Collins

“Basketball was the most dynamic sport for me. In football, especially if you want to be a defensive back, you have to have your hips move and stay in front of receivers, and basketball helped me with that in the long term. Track helped with my explosion. With baseball, it improved my eye-hand coordination.”

T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Running Back

TJ Yeldon

“I ran track when I was in middle school, and that helped a lot with both my running on the football field and my jumping.”

Jordan Larson, USWNT Outside Hitter

Jordan Larson

“I was always into volleyball, but working on other sports gave me a mental and physical break. It made me a more versatile and energized athlete.”

Byron Buxton, Minnesota Centerfielder

Bryon Buxton

“Basketball was the sport my dad played growing up, so I sort of followed in his footsteps. It really did a great job of keeping me in shape. Playing football made me mentally and physically tougher. Once baseball season hit, I was just able to get out there and play and play the game as hard as I could.”

Ian Desmond, Texas Centerfielder

Ian Desmond

“I would encourage any baseball player in general to get out there and play soccer because I think it’s good for— and I know it sounds crazy, but —eye-foot coordination and eye-hand coordination. It’s good for body control, agility, and speed too, obviously. I love soccer. If it wasn’t contractually frowned upon, I would probably play in a men’s pick-up league or something around here just to keep myself in shape.”

Emma Coburn, US Steeplechase

Simply put, being a multi-sport athlete helps you elevate your skill set in a way that playing only one sport doesn’t. Add in a lower chance at injuries, and the decision seems like a no-brainer. So take this into consideration when it’s time to sign up for a sport, and remember: no matter the sport, size, or style, has the elite athletic gear you need to dominate every season.