13 Track & Field Events that Quantify Football Power & Speed – Part I: Indoor Track, the 100 and 40 yard dash

Below are portions of an article written by Tony Holler, Head Track & Field Coach at Plainfield North High School. The full article can be viewed on Freelap.com. Coach Holler was gracious enough to allow us to use his article and viewpoints here and to expand it some more with additional football references.  TrackingFootball would like to thank him again and please take a look at one of his other articles which has generated almost 5K shares on social media and over 20,000 views ’10 Reasons to Join the Track Team’.

What about Indoor Track??
(Graphic Credit: www.flotrack.org)
The 55 meter dash, not run as often anymore, and 60 meter dash is a great quantifier of pure straight-line speed and quickness.  In fact, those races are very close to the 60 yard (almost 55 meters) standard baseball uses to time prospects and closely mimics the king of all football combine events…the 40 yard dash.

We are often asked what constitutes a good 55 or 60 meter sprint in terms of translation to football speed?  Well, consider that Warrick Dunn ran 6.31/55 meters while at Baton Rouge Catholic High and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail ran 6.28/55 meters during his time at Meyers High.  Those times sort of set the top of the bar in terms of quantifying football “quickness” and track translation.  Ismail and Dunn were both small for running backs but their pure quickness made a big difference.  For skill players, depending somewhat on size, anything in the 6.75 (fully automatic timed) range is solid and under 6.6 FAT is outstanding.   As for the 60 meter dash consider current Florida State wide receiver / kick returner Levonte Whitfield ran a 6.64/60, which is one of the fastest times ever for a high school athlete.   While that is not a realistic time for most football players anything in 7.3 FAT range is good and around 7.0 FAT is outstanding.

The indoor hurdles are a bit more track specific in that it usually requires some practice and equipment / facilities to become adequate the event is still transferable to football speed.  The indoor hurdles can indicate pure speed, coordination and determination of an athlete.  Rocket Ismail’s brother and Syracuse receiver, Qadry, was a spectacular indoor hurdler going as fast as 7.27 in 55 meter hurdles in high school.  And Bo Jackson is believed to have run the 60 yard indoor hurdles around 7.29 in high school, albeit at around 215-220lbs (amazing if true).  Ted Ginn, Ohio State wide receiver / kick returner and current NFLer, is an example in the 60 meter high hurdles running in the 7.86 FAT range. So these times certainly aren’t the norm but show indoor hurdles can be a football indicator too.  Anything in the area of 8.0  FAT for the 55 hurdles is solid for a football / track athlete and the 8.4-8.5 FAT range isn’t too bad in the 60 hurdles.  Again, consider hurdles is more skill specific than the pure sprints like the 55 and 60 meter dashes.

As for indoor field events and other track events those will be covered in later editions of this 13 event topic…comments, insights and pics below are Coach Tony Holler’s unless noted.


100 METER DASH … The 100 may be the best outdoor event to quantify speed.  The NFL Combine tests the 40 yard dash.  While I have found the 40 yard dash to be a perfect tool for training sprinters, 40 times are often misleading.  My best sprinters run 4.4, but there are some imposters than also run 4.4.  For example, when considering the spreadsheet of those 95 players at Alabama, ten guys were rated at 4.4 in the 40.  However, the 100 meter dash times of those 4.4 forties varied from 10.18 to 11.67.  I have nothing against the 40; I time close to 10,000 40s every year.  However, given a choice between someone who runs 10.18 and 11.67 in the 100, I would recruit the 10.18.

Baylor running back Devin Chafin (left) was fast in high school running 10.82 in the 100 meters. However, Baylor has seven guys faster. #SpeedKills


What is fast in the 100 meters?  First of all, only consider times with two decimal places.  Two decimal places indicates Fully Automated Timing (FAT).  Hand-held 100 meter times are bogus and should never be passed around as factual data.  I’ve had three guys run 10.4 in the 100.  All three involved unreliable timers and with substantial wind.  With that being said, if a freshmen in high school runs 11.50, he is probably the fastest guy on the football field in every freshmen game.  If a varsity athlete ran under 11.00, he will never get caught from behind.  Our FAT school record is 10.97, and we are known for our speed.  The Illinois State Champion, Cole Henderson ran 10.53.  Alabama has four guys who, in high school, ran 10.18, 10.37, 10.48, and 10.50.  36 guys at Alabama (2009-2014) ran the 100 in high school.  17 of Alabama’s football players would have set the Plainfield North school record.  I watched Baylor destroy Oklahoma last week with their three incredible wide receivers, K.D. Cannon 10.32 (TX state champ), Antwan Goodley 21.40 in 200 (and basketball), and Corey Coleman 10.83 in 100. Coleman also high jumped 6’7″ and long jumped 22’1″.  Corey Coleman caught 15 passes for 224 yards.

If you don’t have automated timing, just watch for muscular guys who win the 100, then ask them what football offers they’ve received.  None of these guys ever slip between the cracks.


TrackingFootball says:  The 100 is without a doubt what separates the true speed guys, even in a football sense.  Of course it doesn’t always guarantee a guy can play but more often than not it isn’t a bad indicator.  Especially when looking at running backs, cornerbacks and to lesser extent wide receivers the slower the 100 the more questions there should be about his football speed.

Players with verifiable 100 speed that translated to the NFL:
Bob Hayes
Deion Sanders
Rocket Ismail
Adrian Peterson
Darrell Green

Bo Jackson
Herschel Walker
Warrick Dunn
Michael Bates
Vance Johnson
Cliff Branch
Stephen Davis
Gerald McNeil
Jordy Nelson

Isaac Curtis
James Trapp
Devin Hester
Tim Dwight
Andre Johnson
Santana Moss

C.J. Spiller
to name just a few there are thousands more…

TrackingFootball says: And the 40?? Couldn’t agree more with what Coach Holler had to say about 40’s…they can give a lot of false positives and negatives on speed.  They are easy to test but not easy to interpret.  The 100 is a more steady gauge.  De’Anthony Thomas ran an “average” 4.51 at last year’s combine then 4.34 at Oregon’s campus testing, what?!  Everyone knows he’s fast, his track stats were fast, game film is fast and he’s shown some of that speed in the NFL this season.

But, we all know Jerry Rice ran a “pedestrian” 4.59 according to Bill Walsh…really 4.59 isn’t all that bad. Consider that Peter Warrick ran a 4.6 and change forty during the draft testing process in 2000.  Would anyone ever have believed that Jerry Rice could run a faster 40 than Warrick?  And supposedly, Emmitt Smith ran a 4.70 at the NFL Combine…funny because Smith never ran the 40 at the Combine! Smith claimed it was too cold in Indianapolis and he couldn’t warm-up properly so he didn’t run the 40 at the Combine.  He did run 40s at the Florida campus testing later and was timed in the 4.5-4.56 range.  Besides, Emmitt ran a 9.9 100 yards in high school about the equivalent of an 11.10 FAT today.  That’s not too shabby.

The fact of the matter is both Smith and Rice ran better than legend would have us believe.   Neither ran 4.7 forties, but neither ran 4.3 which tells us the forty only matters when used in the context of player position and compared to averages of 40 performance.  Players today with all the specialized 40 and combine training should not be compared to players from Emmitt Smith’s or Rice’s era.  4.59 today is considered slow for a wide receiver but in 1985 it was middle of the road at worst.

The point is Smith and Rice weren’t track speedsters but they certainly weren’t slow and the loose environment and circus surrounding 40 timing created the narrative that both Rice and Smith weren’t fast enough.  At other times the 40 leads us to believe a player is much faster than he really is…Rondel Menendez was a 10.99 sprinter in high school but ran 4.24 at the 1999 NFL Combine?  That didn’t add up and Menendez never made it in the NFL.

Of course, Smith and Rice had legendary dedication to training and the game of football.  Each had very high character and work ethics which allowed them to succeed at levels no other players have achieved.  The fact that Rice ran 4.59 and Smith ran in the 4.5-range, instead of 4.7, does not diminish their legend as great football players.  They were each great and probably a little faster than most gave them credit.

The article posted below doesn’t support the Emmitt Smith 4.7/40 story.  Bobby Beathard, GM of the San Diego Chargers at the time, said this about Smith: `The one thing we wanted to see was if Emmitt can run, and he can run,“ said Bobby Beathard of the San Diego Chargers. “What he did today confirms our suspicions that he can run fast. He did very well. He has good speed.“

Article from the Orlando Sentinel from 1990:

Emmitt Smith Erases Fears Of 17 Scouts With 4.5 Dash

March 17, 1990|By ROBBIE ANDREU, Staff Writer

GAINESVILLE — Florida running back Emmitt Smith erased any doubts about his speed Friday morning, running the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds before scouts representing 17 NFL teams.

Throughout his high school and UF career, Smith has been labeled a great back with average speed.

But the scouts found what they needed to know in the O`Connell Center, where Smith and eight UF seniors were tested for speed and agility by the scouts.

“The one thing we wanted to see was if Emmitt can run, and he can run,“ said Bobby Beathard of the San Diego Chargers. “What he did today confirms our suspicions that he can run fast. He did very well. He has good speed.“

Smith turned in times of 4.52, 4.45 and 4.53. The 4.45 was not recorded by the scouts because Smith swayed forward on the starting line.

The past six weeks, Smith has worked on his speed and conditioning with Curtis Frye, the UF track team`s sprint coach. Smith seemed disappointed in his times Friday, and refused to talk to the media.

But the scouts were impressed.

“When you watch him play, you know what a great player he is. The only thing we didn`t know about him was his speed because nobody has ever timed him,“ Beathard said. “Now, we know he can run.“

The fastest UF players Friday were wide receivers Stacey Simmons and Tony Jones, who are also sprinters on the track team. Jones, a reserve throughout his UF career, ran a 4.25 and Simmons a 4.29. Fullback Cedric Smith turned in a low time of 4.52.

Hmmm…no 4.7s there.  According to data in the article Emmitt Smith ran similar 40 times to De’Anthony Thomas? Case closed, the 40 is a bit of a enigma.