Mike Rodgers has been waiting for this moment.
For years, the 36-year-old sprinter has heard television pundits describe the speed of some NFL players as “world class,” or gawk at 40-yard dash times during the league’s scouting combine. He’s watched as NFL players have decided to “talk all this trash on Twitter” about having the speed of a professional sprinter.
“Football players don’t have any clue,” Rodgers said in a news conference Thursday.
That’s why he – and many others in the track and field community – are so excited for the USA Track and Field Golden Games on Sunday, when Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf will compete against seasoned pros in the 100-meter dash.
They view it as a chance to show the NFL what real world-class speed looks like.
“I mean, by no means am I discounting DK,” said Rai Benjamin, a 400-meter hurdler who will be among the favorites to medal at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. “I think he’s a phenomenal athlete and it takes a lot of guts and heart to actually come out and line up against the guys that are in the field.
“(But) I think it’s going to be a really telling spectacle this weekend, as to what it’s really like to compare track speed to the NFL.”
Metcalf, 23, was on the track and field team at Oxford (Miss.) High School and ran the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.33 seconds at the NFL combine. That’s considered elite speed for a professional football player, and particularly one who has Metcalf’s build; The Seahawks wide receiver is listed at 6 feet 4 and 235 pounds.
The speed of world-class sprinters, however, is next level.
Rodgers, who will also compete in the 100-meter dash on Sunday, explained that Metcalf will have a hard time in part because of his lack of training. NFL wide receivers work on explosiveness and quick changes of direction, to create separation from defensive backs. They don’t typically work on sprinting mechanics and technique, or how to distribute speed evenly over a specific distance.
“I think his biggest issue is going to be the start,” Rodgers added. “Because in the 40-yard dash, you can start whenever you want to start. He’s going to deal with the start, the starting blocks, stuff like that.”
Rodgers also noted that 40 yards is only one-third of the distance that Metcalf will be running Sunday.
When asked about his prediction, Rodgers said he’d set the “over-under” for Metcalf’s time at 10.3 seconds. For comparison: Rodgers’ personal best is 9.85. And the world record, set by Usain Bolt in 2009, is 9.58.
Metcalf would need to eclipse 10.05 seconds to earn an automatic invitation to next month’s Olympic Trials, which is highly unlikely.
Renaldo Nehemiah, a track agent and former hurdler who also played briefly in the NFL, described Metcalf’s race this weekend to The Associated Press as “a noble gesture but an exercise in futility.”
“There’s not a sprinter in the world who will let this guy think he can run with them. They will destroy him,” Nehemiah said.
“I applaud (Metcalf) for wanting to find out – and find out he will.”
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.