Speed of football players for 40 yards?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Dinosaur, Sep 23, 2006.

  1. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    I have seen claims that NFL football players can run 40 yards in well under 5 seconds. Some claims are as low as 4.1 to 4.2 seconds. Claims of 4.4 to 4.7 seconds have been made for (I think) 20-30 years. These speeds seem to be due to exaggeration and/or faulty timers.

    I did an analysis based on split times for world class sprinters. An estimate based on split times for a 1991 world record 100 meter race was 4.38 seconds for 40 yards. An estimate based on a more recent race was 4.31 seconds. An estimate based on a disallowed world record race was 4.26 seconds. Since the final time for that race was disallowed as a world record, I do not consider the estimated time for 40 yards to be valid (There was perhaps aide from the wind or a sloped track).

    Note that World Class sprinters do more intensive training for sprinting speed than do NFL players. World class sprinters also run on a surface better suited to running speed and wear shoes better suited to sprinting.

    Based on the above, I doubt if many NFL players can run 40 yards in much under 5 seconds. Perhaps 4.8 seconds might be possible for the fastest players.

    Carl Lewis, though no longer holding the world record, has the fastest recorded time of .83 seconds for 10 meters. This indicates that he could run 40 yards in about 3.03 seconds with a running start. I wonder if NFL players are timed with a running start. I wonder if the claimed times are due to Public Relations hype or faulty timers.

    Does anyone here have any knowledge relating to the above?
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. Absane Rocket Surgeon Valued Senior Member

    I do not have much to offer except a quote:

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/40_yard_dash

    I wouldn't doubt that maybe NFL players can run 40 yards in 5 seconds. 100 meter sprinters average (I think) 21 miles per hour but have a peak speed of 27 miles per hour. I forgot exactly where I read that.

    So, considering that the guy is already running at the 60-yard mark, catches the ball and runs, I do not doubt 5-6 seconds.
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Just speculation, but I would bet on running start. It is actually rather obvious that it has to be running start because:

    1. When the football player catches the ball standing, he doesn't have such a good start as a sprinter has from the starting machine.
    2. Let's suppose the numbers quoted are correct. There is no way a NFL player would outrun a pro sprinter without a running start...
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. jb60606 Registered Member

    A NFL Player's "40-time" is tested at the NFL Combine - which takes place in an indoor stadium complete with a ground rubber running track - prior to the NFL draft they will participate in.

    -They are not given a running start
    -They aren't tested on grass, but on an actual running track

    Off the top of my head, three of the fastest NFL players ever recorded were wide receivers, punt returners, defensive backs...or a combination of the three

    - "Neon" Deion Sanders - 4.2sec 40yd Dash (though he was once clocked at 3.9, in college)
    - Willie Gault - 4.2sec 40yd Dash
    - "Bullet" Bob Hayes - unknown, though he was considered the fastest man in the world at the time.

    - All three were punt returners, and wide receivers. Sanders also played defensive back.
    - Each reached superstar status in the NFL
    - Each were, of course, track stars at the high school, and collegiate levels
    - Each won a superbowl with their respective team
    - Hayes was a gold medal winning and record setting Olympian
    - Willie Gault, though he qualified for the Olympics, chose to play football ($$$)
    - Willie Gault, now in his 40s, set a world record of 10.72 seconds in the master's 100 meters, a division for athletes aged 45 to 49 in February of 2006.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2006
  8. Dr Lou Natic Unnecessary Surgeon Registered Senior Member

    I wouldn't be so sure football players have to be slower than olympic sprinters.
    I know in australia a rugby league player (rhys wesser) was the fastest man over 100 m in the country and could have been in the olympics but it's just not considered as important as football. A slower guy ends up representing australia.

    There's more money in football, if the fastest guy on earth can ball you can be sure he'll be in the NFL and they won't be giving him time off to train for the olympics.
    Also 40 yards is 40 yards, being faster over 40 yards is no guarantee you'll be faster over 100 m. Also breaking down a 100 m time won't necessarrily give you an accurate account of how fast that person could run 40 yards if 40 yards was all they were running.
    The ideal 40 yard sprinter would probably be slightly bulkier than the ideal 100 m sprinter.
    I think over the first 10 metres a bull terrier is faster than a greyhound.
  9. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    So we can put an end to this discussion, from Wikipedia, the relevant part:

    "Many reported times are extremely unreliable due to differences in timing methods if not intentional falsifications. The fastest time officially recorded by the NFL was 4.29 seconds by Deion Sanders in 1989 [1], although the NFL did not begin electronic timing until 1990. In the electronic timing era, the fastest recorded time at the NFL combine was 4.30 seconds by cornerback Tye Hill in 2006 [2]. As noted above, most other times are not trustworthy due to the use of hand timing, but it is often claimed that players such as Sanders, DeAngelo Hall, Michael Vick, Bo Jackson, Randy Moss, Darrell Green, Laveranues Coles, have run the 4.1-4.2 range in college workouts.

    The absolute fastest time has likely not been run by a football player but by a sprinter in track and field. Although 40 yards is never run, the 60 meter dash is a well-regulated track and field distance, the official record for which is 6.39 seconds by Maurice Greene. Studying tapes of sprinter Ben Johnson's world-record breaking 1988 100 meter dash (which was later annulled due to Johnson's steroid use), however, show that Johnson ran the 60 m in 6.37 seconds, this is considered the most quickly started race ever run [3]. Nonetheless, Johnson "only" covered the first 40 yards in 4.38 seconds. It is highly doubtful that any football player could run 40 yards faster than a world-class sprinter in spikes on a track, casting doubts on many claimed 40 yard times.

    However, in track and field races, the runner must react to the starting gun, which can take 0.2-0.3 seconds. For electronically timed 40 yard dashes, the runner is allowed to start when he wishes, which automatically triggers the clock. This difference would indicate that, at peak form, Johnson more likely ran the 40 yard dash in 4.08-4.18 seconds, making claims of 4.2-range 40 times more credible."
  10. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    In plain English the difference can be as much as .4 sec for the benefit of the football player if he uses selfstart and handtiming...
  11. jb60606 Registered Member

    They use triggered starts at the NFL combine. It's important because it simulates the "snap" of the football, and will give the scouts at the combine the best indication of the player's speed, especially off the line.

    And most NFL speedsters, including those mentioned above, were natural T&F sprinters before they were football players. Bob Hayes never played a single game of organized football until the NFL's Dallas Cowboys drafted him late as a "project", after he won gold in the Olympics. Many of them had their best timings recorded in college.
  12. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Exactly. What is a 5 years old data like that is good for?
  13. madanthonywayne Morning in America Registered Senior Member

    This is Speedy Willie, and I'm world class.
    I like runnin', but I love to get the pass.
    I practice all day and dance all night,
    I got to get ready for the Sunday fight.
    Now I'm smooth as a chocolate swirl,
    I dance a little funky, so watch me girl.
    There's no one here that does it like me,
    My Superbowl Shuffle will set you free.

    We're the Bears Shufflin' Crew.
    Shufflin' on down, doin' it for you.
    We're so bad we know we're good.
    Blowin' your mind like we knew we would.
    You know we're just struttin' for fun
    Struttin' our stuff for everyone.
    We're not here to start no trouble.
    We're just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle.

  14. jb60606 Registered Member

    Not sure what you mean, but I thought another interesting thing to note is that the player is only given one official shot to prove his speed at the NFL combine. Considering the combine is a while after their collegiate football season has ended, some are not in the best shape they should be in. Some are even nursing minor injuries.

    For example, the Bears' Bernard Berrian was clocked at a somewhat pedestrian 4.57 at the NFL Combine preceeding his NFL draft. Weeks later, disgusted with his performance, he ran a 4.38 on the much slower grass surface of his University's field in front of scouts and coaches. Some scouts prefer to take an athletes record at college over their performance at the combine. It's rarely accurate. Today, Bernard is very nearly unguardable on deep routes because of his speed.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2006
  15. jb60606 Registered Member

    Gault - 1985, returning a kickoff

    And that's with pads/helmet on. In the open field it almost looked as though everyone but Willie was in slow motion, didn't it?

    I also just learned that he was indeed preparing to participate in the Olympics, until the USA boycotted it.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2006
  16. madanthonywayne Morning in America Registered Senior Member

    Thanks for the link. Man, that takes me back. Watching those highlights reminds me of how I assumed the Bears were set to form a dynasty and would win the next ten superbowls. I mean, they walked all over those guys. It was like they weren't even trying. Then McCaskey dismantled the team, and the Bears never even made it to the Superbowl again.

    Remember the SNL "superfans"? I loved the episode where Ditka got fired and they all had heart attacks!
  17. jb60606 Registered Member


    I don't know if you're in Chicago, but it's Bears fever all over again. Constant comparisons to that dominant 1985 squad, and endless talk of them making it back to the Superbowl. Many are talking about "dynasty" potential as well, because of how young each key player is and the fact that most are signed thru at least 2008. I think it's a little premature, and the Bears are a tad overrated, but it hasn't stopped me from digging up my old game tapes from 85'.

    What's really eerie is the fact that many are predicting it's going to be a Patriots/Bears SB again.
  18. madanthonywayne Morning in America Registered Senior Member

    I've moved to Fort Wayne, we get more Colts coverage around here. But a Bears/Patriots SB, that would kick ass.
  19. Jhary Registered Member

    40 times are pretty much irrelevant for football players, as players always play in full pads in a variety of weather/field conditions, while 40 times are taken by inaccurate equipment in ideal weather conditions on tracks without pads on. That's why you have guys like Jerry Rice who only ran a 4.6 40 become the greatest WR of all time, while a speedster like Randall Hill (Dolphin 1st round draft pick in 1991) who ran a 4.2 40 doesn't even make it in the NFL. For NFL players, regardless of position, speed is a nice to have thing, but agility is vastly more important.


    I root for Miami and anybody that plays the Jets!

Share This Page