Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf turned heads with displays of speed on the gridiron. On Sunday, he’ll trade his helmet and pads for track spikes and run for a chance at the Olympic Trials.
Metcalf is set to race in the 100m in this weekend’s USATF Golden Games and Distance Open at Mt. SAC in Walnut, California. NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app air live coverage on Sunday from 4:30-6 p.m. ET. Peacock streams live coverage from 3:15-6 p.m. ET and USATF.tv coverage airs from 2-4:30 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET onwards.
Metcalf ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Combine, but it would be a significant feat to qualify for the Olympic Trials. It’s not easy to estimate Metcalf’s exact chances of making it to the Trials, as his football speed doesn’t account for a block start.
He would automatically qualify for the Trials in June with a 10.05 on Sunday — a lofty task for the wide receiver. Breaking 10.20 seconds, a more realistic mark, would still give him a good chance to qualify.
If Metcalf made it to the Trials in June, it would then be a tall order to make it to Tokyo. But if he did, he would join a cohort of dozens of NFL players to compete at the Olympic Games.
Notable Olympians who Competed in the NFL
At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, 21-year-old sprinter Bob Hayes won the 100m. Hayes crossed the finish line in 10.06 seconds to tie the world record mark at the time. He then returned to Florida A&M University, where he played football and ran track.
The Cowboys selected Hayes in the 1964 draft, and the receiver went on to play 11 years in Dallas. He is still the only person to have won a Super Bowl and an Olympic gold medal.
Walker took a similar route to Metcalf, making an Olympic bid while still an active NFL player. Walker’s path, though, was in bobsled. The University of Georgia running back won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 before starting his NFL career with the Cowboys in 1986. He took seventh in two-man bobsledding in the 1992 Winter Olympics. Walker was set to compete in four-man bobsledding before being replaced two days before the race.
Thorpe won Olympic gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Olympic Games. Thorpe was an acclaimed athlete in multiple sports, including football, and later served as the first president of the National Football League (formerly called the American Professional Football Association).
Ebner was a member of the U.S. rugby team at the 2016 Rio Olympics before winning Super Bowl LI with the Patriots just a few months later. Ebner spent eight years — and won three Super Bowls — in New England. He played for the Giants in 2020 and announced Olympic intentions for 2021.
Tommie Smith won the 200m at the 1968 Olympics and is best known for his raised fist on the podium after the race. Smith’s winning time of 19.83 seconds marked the first official instance of a sub-20 time in the 200m. Then-Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Walsh invited Smith to a tryout that resulted in Smith playing two games at wide receiver.
Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin competed in the long jump in the 2012 London Olympics after track and football careers at the University of Texas. He later competed in the 2016 Olympic Trials but didn’t make the U.S. team for the Rio Games.
Goodwin, who signed a one-year deal with the Eagles for the 2020 season, opted out due to concerns about COVID-19 and landed in Chicago in April. Before signing with the Bears, he competed in the long jump for the first time since 2016 and recorded one of the best marks in the world so far this year.
Other Olympic-NFL Connections
While he never played in an NFL game, nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis was drafted as a wide receiver by the Dallas Cowboys in the 12th round in 1984. This was ahead of the Los Angeles Olympics, where Lewis won the 100m, 200m, long jump and anchored the victorious U.S. 4x100m relay team. Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill has expressed Olympic ambitions, and easily qualified for Olympic Trials in the 200m in 2012. His best time of 20.14 would have made the Olympic team, but Hill ran at junior nationals and the world junior championships instead of Trials. And 2017 100m world champion Justin Gatlin tried out for multiple NFL teams in 2006 and 2007 while serving a four-year doping ban, including the Texans, Cardinals, Saints and Buccaneers. He never signed a contract, but Jon Gruden nicknamed him “Gold Medal.”
Off the track and on the ice, retired NFL player Vernon Davis – who became a fan of curling before the 2010 Olympics – served as an honorary captain for the U.S. curling team in Vancouver, Sochi and PyeongChang. In 2018, retired Pro Bowlers Jared Allen and Marc Bulger formed a competitive curling team and announced plans to bid for a spot at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
NFL Venues and the Olympics
In addition to athlete overlap, the NFL and the Olympics have trod the same territory when it comes to venues. When the Olympics return to American soil in 2028, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The stadium will first host Super Bowl LVI in 2022. The venue, less than a year old, is the home of the LA Rams and Chargers.
The LA Memorial Coliseum, home to the first and seventh Super Bowls, hosted the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in 1932 and 1984.
The storied Rose Bowl — the site of five Super Bowls — will be used as a soccer venue in 2028. Stanford Stadium, which may also host soccer in 2028, was used for the same purpose in the 1984 Games. It was also the site of Super Bowl XIX in 1985.