The world’s fastest man as a football player? It nearly happened, Usain Bolt revealed to Dan Patrick this morning.
Bolt did not identify which teams, but said that he had been contacted about the possibility of playing wide receiver in the NFL.
“I’ve never really thought about going,” Bolt said, “but I’ve gotten offers and people have asked me.”
Bolt prefers sprinting because it is non-contact, with the exception of a rare Segway accident.
“I used to watch [football] when I was younger, and the hits that the guys used to take…I know that it is not as bad now, but the hits that the guys would take kind of turned me off,” Bolt said.
There is precedent for Olympic sprinters becoming NFL wide receivers. Most notably, 1964 Olympic 100m champion “Bullet Bob” Hayes went on to win a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bolt’s biggest sprinting rival, 2004 Olympic 100m champion Justin Gatlin, did answer the call when contacted by the NFL. In 2007, while serving his doping suspension, he had tryouts with the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans, and went to minicamp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But he stopped playing before the preseason started.
“I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Gatlin said to NBC in a pre-Olympic interview. “[Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden] respected me. He didn’t say I would regret it or anything. There was a big learning curve for me. It wasn’t like I was going to be on the field when the preseason came.”
Gruden, who exclusively referred to Gatlin as “Gold Medal,” played Gatlin at wide receiver. But Gatlin wonders if he would have had more success at safety, the position he preferred in high school.
“I don’t know,” Gatlin said. “But I do know I would have missed track and field.”
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