Willie Gault was browsing the USA Track and Field Web site last week when he noticed that someone with his last name had been named the USATF athlete of the week.

"And I thought, 'Who's this guy Gault, let me check it out,' " the former Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Raiders wideout said in a telephone interview. "And I was like, 'Oh, that's me.' "

The 44-year-old Gault was honored for an outdoor season in which he's shredded American 40-and-older sprinting records. He set the 100-meter record in May (10.73 seconds) and the 200-meter record in June (21.80), and then easily won a 110-meter hurdles masters exhibition at last week's national championships.

He trains about four hours a day in Southern California with the prestigious HSI group, whose members include world-class sprinters Maurice Greene and Leonard Scott. Gault said he wants to promote the sport and also hopes to influence its rules; he's currently crusading for training partner Torri Edwards, who was suspended two years for taking a banned stimulant, which Gault contended was accidental and not as severe an offense as using steroids.

Between making that case, writing his first screenplay and working on his acting career, Gault is also trying to improve his times -- "I'm just disappointed I haven't run faster," he said -- and in fact prefers competing against younger stars rather than the 40-and-older crowd.

Many of those younger HSI athletes tell Gault he's crazy; he has two teenage children, and "they think I'm crazy, also," he said.

So why doesn't he take a break?

"Well it's almost like breathing for me -- it's my life's quest, it's my life's ambition," said Gault, who qualified as a sprinter for the 1980 Summer Olympics, which the United States boycotted, and helped set a 4x100-relay record at the 1983 world championships. "I run because I love it, I run because it makes me happy, I run because it's good for me and I'm going to run until I die."

-- Dan Steinberg