When DK Metcalf lines up to race the 100m against some of the U.S.’ best sprinters on Sunday, he will also compete against history — a long line of football speedsters to excel in track (most of whom did so before entering the NFL).
Here’s a list of the fastest wind-legal 100m times from men who played in an NFL regular season game (statistics via World Athletics, Tilastopaja.org and Pro Football Reference):
1. Jim Hines — 9.95 (1968)
The 1968 Olympic 100m gold medalist was the first man to break 10 seconds with electronic timing and remains the only NFL player to do so. Hines was a sixth-round pick in the 1968 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. He joined the team after the Mexico City Games, was given the number 99 and later an unfortunate nickname for a wide receiver — “Oops.” He played in 10 games between 1969 and 1970 for the Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs.
2. Trindon Holliday — 10.00 (2009)
The 5-foot-5 return specialist placed second in the 2007 USATF Outdoor Championships behind Tyson Gay, but passed on a world championships spot to focus on football. He was eliminated in the 2008 Olympic Trials semifinals, was drafted in 2010 in the sixth round by the Houston Texans, then played among five teams in the regular season from 2011-14.
(All-Pro Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch ran a recorded 10.0 at the 1972 NCAA Championships, which was presumably hand timed and is not counted by World Athletics.)
3/4. Jeff Demps/Jacoby Ford — 10.01 (2008/2009)
Demps is the lone active sprinter on this list. His best time came at the 2008 Olympic Trials, counting as the national high school record though it came the summer after the end of his prep career. He later won a national football title at the University of Florida, was part of the 4x100m relay at the 2012 Olympics and played in two NFL games as a return specialist in 2013.
Ford is better known for his days as a Raiders wide receiver (57 receptions from 2010-13), but he clocked 10.01 while a Clemson sprinter in 2009. As Jesse Squire noted, an argument can be made that Ford is the fastest man who played significantly in the NFL.
5/6. Bob Hayes/Ron Brown — 10.06 (1964/1983)
Hayes is the only man with an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring, achieving the former at the 1964 Tokyo Games and the latter in 1972 during a Hall of Fame wide receiving career mostly with the Dallas Cowboys. He ran 10.06 to dominate the Olympic final, which Tim Layden covered as part of this story last year.
Brown ran his 10.06 in 1983, after he turned down the Cleveland Browns, who drafted him in the second round that year, to pursue the 1984 Olympics. Brown finished fourth in the 100m in Los Angeles and earned relay gold. He then went to the NFL, playing 100 games primarily as a return specialist.
7. Alvis Whitted — 10.07 (1996)
Sixth in the 1996 Olympic Trials 200m won by Michael Johnson in a world record (that Johnson later broke at the Atlanta Games). Whitted ran that final in lane two, sandwiched among three individual Olympic gold medalists — Carl Lewis (lane one), Mike Marsh (four) and Johnson (five). Whitted returned to NC State, then played nine seasons as a wide receiver between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Raiders.
8. Darrell Green — 10.08 (1983)
Known as the NFL’s Fastest Man for winning the league’s annual head-to-head sprint competition four times in the 1980s and ’90s. Green, a Hall of Fame cornerback for Washington who never competed at the Olympics, dusted 1984 relay gold medalists Brown and Sam Graddy, 1992 Olympic bobsledder Herschel Walker, bobsledder and masters sprint champion Willie Gault and Mel Gray, the Detroit Lions’ ace return specialist. Green also reportedly ran a 4.09-second 40-yard dash, faster than the NFL Combine record (4.22), though Green tweeted in March that it was “somewhere in the range of 4.09ish.”
9. Sam Graddy — 10.09 (1984)
1984 Olympic 100m silver medalist behind Lewis. Graddy played 43 games over five NFL seasons as a wide receiver.
10. Willie Gault — 10.10 (1982)
Gault qualified for the 1980 Olympics as part of the 4x100m relay pool, but the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Games. He then began an 11-year NFL career as a wide receiver, winning Super Bowl XX with the Chicago Bears (and helped organize the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” where he was the second solo singer between Walter Payton and Mike Singletary). While playing football, he wanted to bid for LA 84, but was barred over rules that kept professional athletes out of the Games. In 1988, Gault traveled to the Calgary Winter Games with the U.S. bobsled team as a non-competing alternate. Gault owns 100m masters world records for ages 45-49 (10.72), 50-54 (10.88) and 55-59 (11.30).
*Half of the men on this list (plus Branch) played for the Raiders, who weren’t shy about drafting or signing speed.
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