ARTICLE OF THE DAY

40 Yard Dash
by Kevin Monroe
4/1/05

When deliberating on what I would write about today, I decided to surf ESPN.com and find out what was going on in the world of sports.  My last few articles have been on the NCAA tournament, so I thought I would steer clear of that topic.  Luckily, I stumbled upon the story of Maurice Clarett.  Wow, what a character!  Clarett was arguably one of the best freshman running backs in college football history. Notice I emphasized freshman, he basically carried the team on his back to the National Championship just a few years ago.  The problem is his stock, ability, speed, and attitude have all gone down since that amazing year.

The ESPN story noted that Clarett had lowered his 40 yard dash time down from 4.85 to 4.65.  That is a significant improvement, and one that will most likely get him drafted a round or two earlier.  Those couple of rounds earlier will result in several thousands of dollars extra in his contract.  In the NFL, it pays to run FAST.  If you are an average college wide receiver and you run the 40 in 4.3 seconds, you are assured an opportunity to make a professional football team.  If you are a really good college wide receiver, but you only run a 4.7, your chances of making the NFL are slim to none.

Why does the 40 time matter so much???  That race cannot predict how well an athlete will play once he gets on the field on Sunday. Alvis Whitted, former N.C. State wide receiver was the fastest player I played against in college.  In the 1996 Olympic trials he beat Carl Lewis in the 200 meter dash, and fell just short of making the Olympic team. The problem is, Alvis couldn’t catch a cold if he were naked in Alaska. The scouts however put more stock in the fact that he could run past everybody and one day he might even catch it.  Because of his speed, Alvis was in the NFL for 7 years.  During that time, he never caught more than 13 passes in a season, and he only caught more than 9 passes once.
 
On the flipside of that, the greatest receiver, maybe the greatest football player of all time (Jerry Rice) has never run faster than a 4.5 in the 40. Even last year as the Seattle Seahawk’s 5th wide receiver, Rice caught 30 passes.  I often wonder if those people who can really play the game, but didn’t have blazing speed were given a chance, would the NFL look a lot different.  Would there be more Emmitt Smith’s and Jerry Rice’s instead of track stars.  When will a performance against an opponent matter more than your performance against a stop watch?

Kevin Monroe
kevin@downeastsports.com