The 2013 NFL Combine was last weekend and despite what appeared to be fairly unimpressive times, the reality is that the NFL has for the last couple years moved out of the stone age and used partially electronic timing. The start is still manual (who knows why) but the finish line is now an electronic gate. So instead of the times being slow…they are, fairly (but not completely) reliable. They’re still not track times but at least they’re moving in the right direction, having tested FAT in 2012 and 2013. The discrepancy between fully manual (hand timed start and finish) vs partially hand timed (started manually but electronic laser for the finish) is made painfully obvious by this nice article comparing reported high school and this year’s NFL 40 yd dash times. It’s still a little mind boggling that the NFL would choose to retain the use of a manual start when they 1) recognize that it’s unreliable and 2) have started experimenting with fully automatic timing (where both the start and finish are electronically timed)….apparently, player egos and fan impressions are to blame for not moving to FAT.
No surprise, but the fastest time (4.27) of 2013 was turned in by none other than 2012 Long Jump Olympian, Marquise Goodwin.The other impressive performance came from 306 lb Terron Armstead who ran a 4.71. All that said, track timing is still more reliable and performances more comparable across eras since we’ve used FAT timing for over 40 years. But now that football has started to put away the sun dial as a viable timing method we can at least make valid comparisons based on both relatively extrapolations from time, distance, and comparisons between known track splits and the newly reliable 40 yd dash times we’ll see at NFL combines. Considering Goodwin’s time of 4.27, who has quite an impressive track resume and sports 60m and 100m personal bests of 6.69 and 10.24 we’re going to start putting to rest ridiculous claims of the fastest football athletes being faster than the fastest track athletes. Considering Marquises times are both national class but not truly elite sprint performances, I think it’s safe to say the top 10 sprinters in the world would quite easily run a 40 yd dash under 4.10 with similar timing and conditions.