13 Track & Field Events that Quantify Football Power & Speed – Part III: Outdoor Track, The Relays and Football

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 over 5K shares on social media and over 20,000 views ’10 Reasons to Join the Track Team’.

In Part Two of this blog series we looked at Outdoor Track, the 200, 400 and Football.  This time we will focus on the sprint relays and how they relate to quantifying football speed.  These events are run competitively indoor as well but at the high school level are primarily outdoor events.  Because many high school football players are either participating in other winter sports or focusing on out-of-season weight training and agilities we’ll focus on the outdoor season aspect of these events.

All comments, insights and pics below are Coach Tony Holler’s unless noted.



4×1 RELAY … The 4×1 is the greatest race in track and field.  Football players own this one.  My hope every year would be a freshmen team under 45.00 (last year 44.99), a sophomore group under 44.00 (last year 43.82), and a varsity team under 42.50 (last year 42.22).  The state meet was won by Edwardsville at 41.46.  Landon Collins of Alabama ran on a 4×1 team blazing 41.10.  26 guys on Alabama’s roster ran the 4×1 in high school.  As I mentioned in my last article, TCU had six guys in last year’s recruiting class who ran on sub-42 teams.  No wonder TCU leads the nation in scoring.

Plainfield North 400 Relay team - 2008

Plainfield North 400 Relay team – 2008




TrackingFootball says:  Agree with Coach about the 4×100 relay, it is a great event for football skill players.  Great high school relay teams are often comprised of football players. The team concept is never more visible during a track meet than relay races. Each runner has to depend on and trust their teammate. 

The 4×100 relay provides a nice stage to view an athlete’s speed “on the fly”.  The speed displayed in this event directly correlates to the all out running seen during football special teams play, interception returns and deep throws and pass patterns.

Another benefit of the 4×100 is coaches have the option of putting multiple relay teams (I remember fielding up to 5 JV and freshman 4×100 teams) on the track at once, during dual meets and smaller meets.   This is a good way to get a lot of football / track athletes involved with competitive sprinting. On occasions there are even some linebacker and linemen types that have enough speed to run on their high school relay teams.  And everyone loves the “throwers’ relay”.   Always nice for bigger athletes to highlight their running skills.

There are countless examples of great college and NFL players that ran on their high school’s relay teams.  Below are a few anecdotes…

Players with verifiable 4×100 relay speed that translated to the NFL:
LaDainian Tomlinson RB –  Waco University HS in TX state qualifying 4×1 (41.82)
Jamal Lewis RB – Douglass HS in Georgia 4×1 4th state (42.14)
Arian Foster RB – Mission Bay HS in California 4×1 (44.20)
Michael Huff DB – Nimitz HS in TX 4×1 (41.25)
Ricky Williams RB – Patrick Henry HS in California 4×1 (42.83)
Maurice Jones-Drew RB – De La Salle HS in California state qualifying 4×1 (42.20)
Darrelle Revis CB – Aliquippa HS in Pennsylvania 3rd state 4×1 (43.59)
Antonio Brown WR – Miami Norland HS in Florida 4×1 (41.96)
Richard Sherman CB – Dominguez HS in California 4×1 (41.95)
Patrick Peterson CB – Blanche Ely HS in Florida 2nd state 4×1 (41.41)
Vontae Davis CB – Dunbar HS in Washington D.C. 4×1 (43.38)
Darren Sproles RB – Olathe North HS in Kansas 4×1(42.71)
DeMarco Murray RB – Bishop Gorman HS in Nevada 4×1 (44.24)
Brandin Cooks WR – Lincoln HS in California 4×1 (43.18) also 21.59/200 & 10.76/100 sprinter
Demaryius Thomas WR – West Laurens HS in Georgia 4×1 (43.19) also 11.00/100 sprinter
Randall Cobb WR – Alcoa HS in Tennessee 2nd state 4×1 (42.13)
to name just a few of the thousands more that can be seen here.

No. 5


4×2 RELAY … Like comparing the 100 to the 200, the 4×2 sprinters are usually the same as the 4×1.  However, the event conflicts with the 400, so your 47.50 400 meter runner never gets to run the 4×2.  In addition, the 4×2 is less than 20 minutes from the running of the 300 hurdles, so those terrific athletes are often absent from the 4×2.  The 4×1 always has an A-team event, the top four sprinters from every school.  The 4×2 is not.  Football players are everywhere here.  My 4×2 last year was anchored by Quintin Hoosman, who led the state of Illinois this year in rushing (2400 yards and 32 touchdowns in 10 games).  My hope every year would be a freshmen team under 1:36.00 (last year 1:35.02), a sophomore group under 1:33.0 (last year 1:31.84), and a varsity group under 1:28.0 (last year 1:28.61).  The Plainfied North school record is 1:27.14.  The Illinois state meet was won by Schaumburg at 1:26.13.  Nine guys on Alabama’s roster ran the 4×2 in high school, Landon Collins ran on a team that went 1:26.55.  Baylor has three guys who ran on high school teams running 1:25.45, 1:25.84, and 1:26.02.


My 4×2 set the Illinois Class A record in 2001 running 1:28.06. Not bad for a school of 600 kids from a poor coal-mining town in Southern Illinois. The same guys ran 42.50 in the 4×1 (another record). The big guy in this picture, Braden Jones, long jumped 23’4″ and ran 48.8 in the 400 despite being 6’3″, 215. He later started at LB for Northwestern, TE at SIU, and played for the Minnesota Vikings.

My 4×2 set the Illinois Class A record in 2001 running 1:28.06. Not bad for a school of 600 kids from a poor coal-mining town in Southern Illinois. The same guys ran 42.50 in the 4×1 (another record). The big guy in this picture, Braden Jones, long jumped 23’4″ and ran 48.8 in the 400 despite being 6’3″, 215. He later started at LB for Northwestern, TE at SIU, and played for the Minnesota Vikings.


TrackingFootball says:

  The 4×200 relay obviously similar to the 4×100, as Coach pointed out.  In this particular event more powerful sprinters and football / track athletes can dominate the tie-in is obvious.  Here again we see athletes getting to showcase their flat out speed “on the fly” but at a longer distance. Below are a few more anecdotes…

Players with verifiable 4×200 relay speed that translated to college and the NFL:
Justin Forsett RB – Grace Prep HS in Texas 4×2 (1:30.97)
Earl Thomas DB – West Orange-Stark HS in Texas 4×2 (1:27.77)
Dez Bryant WR – Lufkin HS in Texas 4×2 (1:28.35)
Jamaal Charles RB – Port Arthur Memorial  HS in Texas state champ 4×2 (1:24.12)
Christine Michael RB – Beaumont Westbrook HS in Texas 4×2 (1:28.45)
Aqib Talib DB –  Richardson Berkner HS in Texas 4×2 (1:32.77)
Leonard Fournette RB (college) – St. Augustine HS in Louisiana 4×2 (1:26.83)
Melvin Gordon RB (college) – Kenosha Bradford HS in Wisconsin 4×2 (1:28.98)
Tevin Coleman RB (college) – Oak Forest HS in Illinois 4×2 (1:30.24)
to name just a few of the thousands that can be seen here.



4×4 RELAY … This should be the football coaches’ favorite.  No other race resembles a backyard brawl.  In this race, you can apply all of those words football coaches love … courage, toughness, dedication, loyalty, perseverance, determination, hard work, and discipline.  Four guys at the end of a meet, beaten and battered from earlier races, courageously put it all on the line.  No one feels good, but there is something inherently “manly” about the race.  Four are warriors racing one last time.  This gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.  Yes, I was a 4×4 guy.  My hope every year would be a freshmen team under 3:40.0 (PN Fr record 3:39.71), a sophomore team under 3:32.00 (PN Soph record 3:30.84), and a varsity team under 3:20 (PN Var record 3:19.30).  The Illinois state meet was won by East St. Louis running 3:16.59.

The 4×4 is the track & field’s most competitive race.

The 4×4 is the track & field’s most competitive race.



TrackingFootball says: Absolute agreement the 4×400 or “mile” relay is the most competitive and exciting relay, perhaps event, during a track meet.  Running the 400, as we’ve discussed in prior blogs, is gut-wrenching and this relay supplies all that and then some.  This event shows which athletes are really tough and refuse to quit. 

I had the pleasure of coaching Darius Willis, Indiana University football player from 2008-11, during my time as a teacher and track coach in Indianapolis. Darius was easily one of the best athletes I ever coached, and I coached some good ones (Donald Washington).  Darius participated in high school football, wrestling, track & field, baseball and basketball – although he only wrestled and played basketball as a freshman.

Darius was nice enough to do an email interview with me several weeks ago.  This is what he candidly had to say about high school multi-sport participation, track and field, running the 4×100 and 4×400 relay and how they impacted his transition to playing Big Ten Football, in his own words:

“I think playing multiple sports in high school gives you a competitive advantage because you are always in great shape. Playing five sports as I did in high school helped me gain a lot of knowledge about how to compete at the next level. Each sport’s practice is different from the other and having that experience put me a step ahead of my competition at the next level. When you’re in college you have to learn from all new coaches and each coach has a certain skill set for you to learn.

Through running you learn and demonstrate so much drive and determination to win and compete at the highest level possible. By running the 400 as well as the 1600 meter relays, which is the grand daddy of them all, brings out the best in you. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick, hurt, or dead tired. When it comes to the 1600 relay you are going to give your all and at the end of the race feel like you just won a million dollars. That is why the 1600 is the last race (at track meets). It is best of the best to showcase who the better athletes or track team is.

Some of my best moments through sports came by running the 400 and 1600 meter relays. The relays would bring out the best of me on the track. In football I wanted to be the best and play the best I could every game and increase that play each week just like track. You just have to have the drive, the want and desire but most importantly be willing to put in the work. That goes for any sport but there is something special about running relay races. A similarity for me that I can compare is being the anchor on the relays and being a running back. It means that I love the pressure on me and that I want to perform at my best for my teams. My teammates believed in me as their leader.

I can’t say for certain that because of participating in the relays it specifically helped my football performance. But being a competitive athlete you always want to perform at your best and that’s what helped me most in football. To all athletes who have dreams of playing at the next level. I would say please participate in other sports to help give you an advantage over those athletes who don’t.”

Darius Willis

Indiana University


Photo Credit: mgoblog.com Darius Willis runs 90 yards for TD against Michigan

Photo Credit: mgoblog.com
Darius Willis runs 90 yards for TD against Michigan

Darius Willis 4x100 State Track Meet

Darius Willis 4×100 State Track Meet