View Full Version : Why does the NFL treat the 40 yard dash as sacred?

06-10-2006, 06:06 PM
The NFL treats 40-yard dash times as sacred. But if those numbers are true, many players are faster than Olympic gold medalists and their clockings should be eyed with a dash of doubt
By Mark Zeigler

April 18, 2005

JIM BAIRD / Union-Tribune
Kirk Morrison tries to improve his draft standing by running the 40-yard dash for scouts in the San Diego State weight room.
There is no official world record for 40 yards.

The shortest distance that the IAAF, track and field's international governing body, recognizes for world-record purposes is an indoor 50 meters, or about 54 yards. It is 5.56 seconds and it was set by Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey in 1996. There is also a world record for 60 meters 6.39 seconds by American Maurice Greene in 1998.

But it is another Canadian, Ben Johnson, who is believed to have run 40 yards faster than any human in history. Johnson is best known for injecting copious amounts of steroids and winning the 100 meters at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul in 9.79 seconds, only to have his gold medal and world record stripped after failing a post-race drug test.

Timing officials have since broken down that famed race into 10-meter increments, and Johnson was so preposterously fast that he went through 50 meters in 5.52 seconds and 60 meters in 6.37 both under the current world records at those distances. He went through 40 yar ds that day in 4.38 seconds.

He was running in spikes . . . on a warm afternoon perfectly suited for sprinting . . . with a slight tailwind . . . with years of training from arguably track's top coach, Charlie Francis . . . with Carl Lewis and six others of the fastest men on the planet chasing him . . . with 69,000 people roaring at Seoul's Olympic Stadium . . . with hundreds of millions of people watching on TV . . . with the ultimate prize in sports, an Olympic gold medal, at stake.

And, as we learned later, with muscles built with the assistance of the anabolic steroid stanazolol.


06-11-2006, 09:43 AM
That was a great read, thanks for that.

Especially liked the part where they said that Bill Parcells clocked Mathis at 4.25 :)

06-11-2006, 11:46 AM
It's also where Jerome Mathis, a wide receiver from tiny Hampton College in Virginia, sent his stock soaring with a reported 4.32. Some scouts apparently caught him sub-4.30. Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcels told people his stopwatch showed 4.25.

Never mind that Mathis was running on the RCA Dome's notoriously slow artificial turf, or that he was running alone without the aid of fellow competitors pushing him. Or that his left hamstring was wrapped because of a slight muscle strain.


06-11-2006, 12:26 PM
Here's some Casserly thoughts on this subject:

1. He said Mathis not only had one sub 4.3 time. He had three of them. He says that it is not unusual for a player to run one really quick time and a couple of slower ones, but for him to run 3 smoking times was pretty amazing.

2. He says that, for example, there are a number of slowish wide receivers that have excelled in the NFL. The problem is in drafting--it is hard to pick that guy out in advance--to know which slow guy can play based on college play. So given a number of guys with the same skill sets based on tape, you would like the faster guy.

06-11-2006, 04:20 PM
We've touched on this before in other threads on this subject, but its important to remember that most 40 times at the Indy Combine and the various individual college Pro Days are recorded with hand-held watches
and not electronically as times at Track Meets have been taken for decades.
The significance of the difference between the two methods is of course that hand-held times understate the true time, or make it appear faster than
it really is since human reactions are slower than the mechanical/electronic
equipment used in the other method.