Oct 3, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; NFL Network announcer Deion Sanders prior to the game between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The 40-yard dash is the most watched and most talked about event annually at the NFL scouting combine.
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Every February, the NFL Scouting Combine rolls around and give us one last taste of football before basketball, baseball and golf take over our televisions until the NFL Draft. Stars are born, discovered, substantiated and criticized by NFL scouts as we all watch, hoping to get a glimpse or idea of what tomorrow’s NFL will look like.
Capturing our attention more than any event at the combine is the 40-yard dash.
In America, we love everything fast — from cars to the internet. We don’t make exceptions for our athletes. Speed fascinates our sports-viewing society, likely because most of us just don’t have it. Be that as it may, we know what it can do and how it can potentially help our favorite teams going forward, arguably more so than any other measurable.
We’ve seen some blazing 40 times roll across our screens at the combine over the years. Many of the players who ran them went on to long, successful NFL careers. Some of them never panned out and vanished from the NFL scene almost as fast as they ran the 40.
Prior to the 1999 combine, 40 times were clocked by a human-operated stop watch, as opposed to the electronic system in place now. As a result, many of those pre-1999 times have been scrutinized and doubted.
However, we have still included the pre-electronicly recorded times for the purpose of discussion.
The times listed are the official times, not the one-off times certain players ran that did not end up being deemed “official.”
Dec 15, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (12) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Santana Moss (89) in the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 27-26. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Back in 2008, Orlando Scandrick (Boise State) became the most recent player to log a 4.32 at the combine. Scandrick was taken by the Cowboys in the 5th round of the NFL Draft that year and has been in Dallas ever since. He has logged seven interceptions during his career.
Severalplayers have posted a time of 4.31 since 2000 including Jonathan Joseph (South Carolina) in 2006, Tyvon Branch (Syracuse) and Justin King (Penn State) in 2008, Aaron Lockett (Kansas State) in 2002 and Santana Moss (Miami) in 2001. Perhaps the most famous player to post a 4.31 at the combine recently was Arizona Cardinals All-Pro corner Patrick Peterson.
Joseph has gone on to become one of the better corners in the NFL, while Santana Moss has enjoyed a respectable 14-year career with the Jets and Redskins. He has eclipsed to 1,000-yard mark four times and caught 66 touchdowns.
Lockett finished his playing days in the CFL in 2006. Branch is still a safety for the Oakland Raiders and King last played for the Steelers in 2013.
Oct 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (81) during the game against the Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
“That guy has 4.3 speed.” We’ve all heard that before. It’s the unwritten standard for elite speed.
The most recent player to post an exact 4.3 at the combine was Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland) in 2009. The late Al Davis shocked the football world when he drafted Heyward-Bey with the 7th overall pick that year — based on what appeared to be speed alone.
It’s safe to say Heyward-Bey has been less than average during his NFL career. He never really became what Davis envisioned in Oakland. He spent 2013 in Indianapolis and 2014 in Pittsburgh, where he caught three passes.
The most recognizable names among the players to post a 4.29 are Trindon Holliday (Louisiana State) in 2010 and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee State) in 2008.
Holliday, areturn specialist, has bounced around five different rosters since being drafted by the Texans in 2010. His best work came with the Broncos from 2012-2013. Despite the title of the video above, Holliday’s final official time at the 2010 combine was 4.29.
Rodgers-Cromartie has become somewhat of a journeyman corner, playing for four teams so far during his seven-year career. He was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2009.
Others to clock 4.29 are Fabian Washington (Nebraska) in 2005, Lavernanues Coles (Florida State) in 2000, James Williams (Fresno State) in 1990, Gaston Green (UCLA) in 1988 and Jay Hinton (Morgan State) in 1999.
Four players have clocked an official 4.28 at the combine: Champ Bailey (Georgia) in 1999, Jacoby Ford (Clemson) in 2010, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail (Notre Dame) in 1991 and Kevin Williams (Miami) in 1993.
Bailey, as we all know, has gone on to have a Hall of Fame-caliber career, establishing himself as one of the better cornerbacks in recent NFL history.
Jacoby Ford spent his first three seasons in Oakland and has bounced from the Jets to the Titans in the last two years.
“Rocket” Ismail became a household name during his time at Notre Dame, eventually spurning the NFL for the CFL where he won a Grey Cup in 1991. He eventually signed with the Raiders in 1993 and had a fairly pedestrian NFL career.
Williams is best remembered for his time with the Dallas Cowboys where he replaced Alvin Harper in 1995 as the No. 2 receiver opposite Michael Irvin. He would go on to play for the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers before finishing his career in 2000.
Five players over the years have run a 4.27 at the combine: Marquise Goodwin (Texas) in 2013, Stanford Routt (Houston) in 2005, Devin Hester (Miami) in 2006, Darren McFadden (Arkansas) in 2008 and James Jett (West Virginia) in 1993.
Goodwin has had some success as a return specialist and receiver for the Bills early in his career.
Routt enjoyed a long career, spending most of it with the Raiders and later joining the Chiefs and Texans.
Devin Hester has gone on to become the greatest kick returner in NFL history, making his mark with the Bears before joining the Falcons in 2014.
McFadden has had an injury-riddled and overall disappointing career with the Oakland Raiders. He has never been able to replicate the success he had in college.
James Jett played ten seasons with the Raiders, mostly as the No. 2 to Tim Brown. He was a member of the gold medal-winning 4 x 100 relay team for the United States at the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona.
Two players have posted a 4.26 at the combine: Dri Archer (Kent State) in 2014 and Jerome Mathis (Hampton) in 2005.
Dri Archer saw limited action for the Steelers during his rookie season. The rookie running backlogged ten carries for 40 yards and caught seven passes for 23 yards.
Mathis began his career on a high note for the Houston Texans. He was voted into the Pro Bowl as a rookie kick returner in 2005. That same season, he won the NFL Alumni Special Teams player of the year award.
After two more seasons with Houston, Mathis joined the Redskins in 2008. That would be his final season in the NFL, as he would spend the next three years in the CFL, UFL and the Arena Football league before leaving football altogether in 2011.
Sep 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) is chased by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston (50) during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Two pretty familiar names posted 40 times of 4.25: Randy Moss (Marshall) in 1998 and Michael Vick (Virginia Tech) in 2001.
By most accounts, Moss will go down in history as the second best receiver ever to play the game — behind only Jerry Rice. He brought a rare combination of size, speed and great hands that few had ever seen before. The end result was a nearly unstoppable force through the prime of his career.
Speaking of things few had seen before, Vick’s 40 time is the fastest we’ve ever seen from a quarterback. He was electric during his first few seasons as a result of his speed and his underrated big arm. Because of his legal issues in the prime of his career, we’ll never really know how good he could have been.
Two players have posted a 4.24 at the combine: Chris Johnson (East Carolina) in 2008 and Rondel Menendez (Eastern Kentucky) in 1999.
Johnson’s time is the fastest recorded since the combine began using the electronic timing system. During his first six seasons in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, Johnson ran for over 1,000 yards each year. The 2014 season as a member of the New York Jets was Johnson’s first sub-1,000 yard campaign.
Rondel Menendez got himself drafted with his blazing time. The Falcons took him in the seventh round of the 1999 draft. Be that as it may, Menendez never played a single regular season down in his career.
Almost as if on purpose, Deion Sanders (Florida State) turned in a 40 time in 1989 where the numbers behind the decimal matched his jersey. Sanders is widely regarded as the best cover corner in the history of the game and one of the faster players ever as well.
The other guy to run a 4.21 was Don Beebe (Chadron State) in 1989. Beebe was one of the most dependable slot receivers in history, doing his best work with the Buffalo Bills from 1989 t0 1994. He appeared in six Super Bowls with two teams — Buffalo and the Green Bay Packers.
Jan 10, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; ESPN reporter Joey Galloway during Media day at Dallas Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Joey Galloway (Ohio State) ripped off a blazing 4.18 back in 1995. The Ohio native played 16 seasons in the NFL for five different franchises. His speed made him a dangerous deep-threat during his tenure in the league. He finished with 77 touchdown catches and 15.6 yards per reception over the course of his career.
Apparently, hecan still fly.
Former Ohio State quarterback and ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit tweeted out in July of 2014 that Galloway posted a 4.29 on grass at the age of 42.
Ahman Green (Nebraska) posted a 4.17 back in 1998. Green played 11 seasons for three different NFL franchises.
The four-time Pro Bowler is in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and is the all-time rushing leader in Packer history.
Darrell Green (Texas A&M-Kingsville) ran a 4.15 back in 1983. Green spent his entire 20-year career with the Redskins where he was known for most of it as the NFL’s fastest man.
Green was selected to seven Pro Bowls, played in three Super Bowl — winning two — and was the 1996 Walter Payton Man of the Year.
In 1990, Alexander Wright (Auburn) clocked a 4.14 at the combine. The Dallas Cowboys selected the in the second round of the NFL Draft that year. He played a total of seven seasons for three teams: the Cowboys, Raiders and Rams.
The 40 time to rule them all — the legendary 4.12 put up by Bo Jackson (Auburn) in 1986. Though it has been questioned because of the human element involved, it’s not hard to imagine Jackson running a 4.12 40 if you’ve ever seen him play or even seen highlights.
NFL fans would have to wait a year to see Bo on the gridiron, as he was pursuing a professional baseball career with the Kansas City Royals that put his pro football debut on hold.
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Bo spent his entire NFL career with the Raiders, which should not come as a surprise. The Raiders have always been known to value speed over pretty much everything else. In fact, of the 36 players mentioned in this article, exactly one-third of them spent time with the Raiders during their careers.