- Was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child.
- Competed in prep football, basketball and track; earned a college-football scholarship, but shifted focus to track after a knee injury.
- Made decathlon debut at the 1970 Drake Relays, finishing sixth; placed 10th at first Olympics, the 1972 Munich Games.
- Sold insurance part-time while training intensively for the 1976 Olympics.
- Claimed gold in the decathlon at the 1976 Games in Montreal, setting a world record in points that would stand until 1980.
- Was drafted by the NBA's Kansas City Kings in 1977, but never suited up for the team.