From London: Jamaal Charles vs Usain Bolt?
The Kansas City Star
Today’s columns are about a kid from Junction City who took up track three years ago because he didn’t want to the band and ended up racing Usain Bolt at the Olympics, and about the slow but significant progress of women’s athletics shown here, which is a follow-up of sorts to this column that ran before the Games. As always, I hope you read them.
LONDON — Usain Bolt will run 200 meters in 19-point-something seconds tonight, thrilling a packed Olympic Stadium and an enormous international audience and the temptation back home is to wonder what it means.
Specifically, the temptation is to wonder if, say, how Jamaal Charles might do in that race. Or Chris Johnson. Or someone else you’ve watched sprint away from some of America’s best athletes on an NFL Sunday.
If Bolt, for instance, was born in Chicago instead of Jamaica — would he be playing for the Chiefs or Dolphins instead of sprinting in front of the world?
How would the fastest men in American professional sports do against the world’s fastest men?
I asked an expert.
“I think it’s vastly overestimated how many of those guys could be elite sprinters,” says Mike Young, a biomechanist who has worked with both world-class sprinters and professional football players. “In the last 10 or 20 years, I can think of maybe three or four guys in those sports who could make the Olympic finals, and they’re all out of the NFL.”
Young names Deion Sanders, James Jett, and Michael Bates off the top of his head. There may be others. I asked about Johnson, and he said yes. I wish I’d have asked about Charles and especially Bo Jackson.
But the point is Young knows what he’s talking about here. He’s worked with Olympians, and he’s worked with football players, particularly in preparation for the NFL combine.
He points out that the 40-yard dash is the main way to judge NFL speed, and that elite sprinters are not even at their peak speed at 40 yards. And still, “the top 10 guys who’ve ever run the 100 meters would destroy the NFL combine record in the 40-yard dash.”
Young thinks the fastest football players — after losing weight to adjust to the different sport — could stay with elite sprinters for 30 or 40 yards, but after that would get blown away.
Anyway, that’s the opinion of an expert.