The 40-yard dash is a sprint covering 40 yards (36.58 m). It is primarily run to evaluate the speed and acceleration of American football players by scouts, particularly for the NFL Draft but also for collegiate recruiting. A player's recorded time can have a heavy impact on his prospects in college or professional football. This was traditionally only true for the "skill" positions such as running back, wide receiver, and defensive back, although now a fast 40-yard dash time is considered important for almost every position. The 40-yard dash is not an official race in track and field athletics, and is not an IAAF-recognized race.
The origin of timing football players for 40 yards comes from the average distance of a punt and the time it takes to reach that distance.Punts average around 40 yards in distance from the line of scrimmage, and the hangtime (time of flight) averages approximately 4.5 seconds; therefore, if a coach knows that a player can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds, he will be able to leave the line of scrimmage when a punt is kicked, and reach the point where the ball comes down just as it arrives.
In terms of judging a person's speed, the best method of timing is through lasers which start and stop the times when passed through. A laser start (from a stationary position) is more accurate for measuring pure speed as it does not register a runner's reaction time, however, this method of timing a 40-yard dash can affect the accuracy by as much as 0.5 seconds with the manual stopwatch method.
The National Football League (NFL) did not begin using partial electronic timing (i.e. started by hand, stopped electronically) at the NFL Scouting Combine until 1999.For purposes of measurement at the Combine, the run is made along the lower sideline from the 40 yard-line to the end zone, which has built-in rundown space, and for electronically timed 40-yard dashes, the runner is allowed to start when they wish, and a timer hand-starts the clock.
In contrast, track and field races have the runner react to a starting gun, which takes approximately 0.24 second (based on FAT timing); further to this, IAAF rules state any runner with a reaction time of less than 0.1 second is subject to disqualification.
This aspect means that comparisons with track times are essentially impossible given that a reaction time is not factored in, and the use of hand-timing in the 40-yard dash can considerably alter a runner's time: the methods are not comparable to the rigorous electronic timing used in track and field.
For example, Jacoby Ford, who ran 4.28 s in the 2010 NFL Combine, had a collegiate best of 6.51 s in the 60-meter dash (outside the top-40 of the all-time lists).
It has been said consistently that Darrell Green recorded a time of 4.09 at the Washington Redskins’ training camp in 1986. Bo Jackson claimed to have run a 40-yard dash with a time of 4.13 s,and there were also reports of Jackson running a 4.12 at the 1986 combine. Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant was hand-timed by a New Orleans Saints scout as running a 4.10 in 2016, potentially beating Jackson's record. In the early 1980s, Baylor's Gerald McNeil ran a 4.19-second 40-yard dash before being signed to the United States Football League (USFL). Deion Sanders ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash in 1989.
In 2013, rugby union Carlin Isles recorded a time of 4.22 at a Detroit Lions facility during a workout.
In 2017, Olympic sprinter Christian Coleman ran a time of 4.12 seconds on turf in response to claims that NFL players are as fast as Usain Bolt.
A year and a half after he retired from active competition, Usain Bolt ran a 4.22 in running shoes and a tracksuit at a promotional event for the Super Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia on February 2, 2019.
This is a list of the official 40-yard dash results of under 4.31 seconds recorded at the NFL Scouting combine since 1999, the first year electronic timing was implemented at the NFL Scouting Combine.
|4.22||John Ross||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)||190 lb (86.2 kg; 13.6 st)||Wide receiver||Washington||2017||No. 9 overall by Cincinnati Bengals|
|4.24||Rondel Menendez||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)||192 lb (87.1 kg; 13.7 st)||Wide receiver||Eastern Kentucky||1999||No. 247 overall by Atlanta Falcons|
|Chris Johnson||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)||192 lb (87.1 kg; 13.7 st)||Running back||East Carolina||2008||No. 24 overall by Tennessee Titans|
|4.26||Jerome Mathis||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)||184 lb (83.5 kg; 13.1 st)||Wide receiver||Hampton||2005||No. 114 overall by Houston Texans|
|Dri Archer||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)||173 lb (78.5 kg; 12.4 st)||Running back||Kent State||2014||No. 97 overall by Pittsburgh Steelers|
|4.27||Henry Ruggs III||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)||190 lb (86.2 kg; 13.6 st)||Wide receiver||Alabama||2020||No. 12 overall by Las Vegas Raiders|
|Stanford Routt||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)||193 lb (87.5 kg; 13.8 st)||Cornerback||Houston||2005||No. 38 overall by Oakland Raiders|
|Marquise Goodwin||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)||181 lb (82.1 kg; 12.9 st)||Wide receiver||Texas||2013||No. 78 overall by Buffalo Bills|
|4.28||Champ Bailey||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)||192 lb (87.1 kg; 13.7 st)||Cornerback||Georgia||1999||No. 7 overall by Washington Redskins|
|Jacoby Ford||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)||190 lb (86.2 kg; 13.6 st)||Wide receiver||Clemson||2010||No. 108 overall by Oakland Raiders|
|Jalen Myrick||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)||200 lb (90.7 kg; 14.3 st)||Cornerback||Minnesota||2017||No. 222 overall by Jacksonville Jaguars|
|J. J. Nelson||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)||156 lb (70.8 kg; 11.1 st)||Wide receiver||UAB||2015||No. 159 overall by Arizona Cardinals|
|DeMarcus Van Dyke||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)||187 lb (84.8 kg; 13.4 st)||Cornerback||Miami||2011||No. 81 overall by Oakland Raiders|
|4.29||Fabian Washington||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)||188 lb (85.3 kg; 13.4 st)||Cornerback||Nebraska||2005||No. 23 overall by Oakland Raiders|
|Zedrick Woods||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)||205 lb (93.0 kg; 14.6 st)||Safety||Mississippi||2019||Undrafted|
|Javelin Guidry||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)||191 lb (86.6 kg; 13.6 st)||Cornerback||Utah||2020||Undrafted|
|4.30||Darrent Williams||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)||176 lb (79.8 kg; 12.6 st)||Cornerback||Oklahoma State||2005||No. 56 overall by Denver Broncos|
|Tye Hill||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)||185 lb (83.9 kg; 13.2 st)||Cornerback||Clemson||2006||No. 15 overall by St. Louis Rams|
|Yamon Figurs||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)||174 lb (78.9 kg; 12.4 st)||Wide receiver||Kansas State||2007||No. 74 overall by Baltimore Ravens|
|Darrius Heyward-Bey||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)||210 lb (95.3 kg; 15.0 st)||Wide receiver||Maryland||2009||No. 7 overall by Oakland Raiders|
|Jamel Dean||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)||206 lb (93.4 kg; 14.7 st)||Cornerback||Auburn||2019||No. 94 overall by Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
According to a five-year NFL combine report, wide receivers and cornerbacks had the fastest average times at 4.48, followed by running backs at 4.49. The following average times were measured between 2000 and 2012 at the NFL combine for players who played at least 5 games.
Robert Lee "Bullet Bob" Hayes was an Olympic gold medalist sprinter who then became an American football wide receiver in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys. Bob Hayes is the only athlete in history to win the Olympic Gold and a Super Bowl title. An American track and field athlete, he was a two-sport stand-out in college in both track and football at Florida A&M University. He has one of the top 100 meter times by NFL players. Hayes was enshrined in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2001 and was selected for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January 2009. Hayes is the second Olympic gold medalist to be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, after Jim Thorpe. He once held the world record for the 70-yard dash. He also is tied for the world's second-fastest time in the 60-yard dash. He was once considered the "world's fastest human" by virtue of his multiple world records in the 60-yard, 100-yard, 220-yard, and Olympic 100-meter dashes. Hayes is the only athlete to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring. He was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.
Sprinting is running over a short distance at the top-most speed of the body in a limited period of time. It is used in many sports that incorporate running, typically as a way of quickly reaching a target or goal, or avoiding or catching an opponent. Human physiology dictates that a runner's near-top speed cannot be maintained for more than 30–35 seconds due to the depletion of phosphocreatine stores in muscles, and perhaps secondarily to excessive metabolic acidosis as a result of anaerobic glycolysis.
Stanford Bermond Routt is a former American football cornerback. After playing college football for Houston, he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played for the Raiders for seven seasons from 2005 to 2011. He also played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.
The NFL Scouting Combine is a week-long showcase occurring every February at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where college football players perform physical and mental tests in front of National Football League coaches, general managers, and scouts. With increasing interest in the NFL Draft, the scouting combine has grown in scope and significance, allowing personnel directors to evaluate upcoming prospects in a standardized setting. Its origins have evolved from the National, BLESTO, and Quadra Scouting organizations in 1977 to the media event it has become today.
Taylor Mays is a former American football safety. He won Washington state titles in track in both the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash as a high school sophomore, before leaving track and field to dedicate himself to football. He played college football at USC, and was a three-time All-American. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft and also played in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders, playing in 66 regular season NFL games.
Trindon Jerard Holliday is a former American football wide receiver and return specialist. He was drafted by the Houston Texans in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL draft. He played college football at LSU. At 5'5", Holliday is one of the shortest players in NFL history. He has also played for the Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, and Oakland Raiders.
Jeremy Maclin is a former American football wide receiver. He played college football at Missouri, where he was a two-time consensus All-American, and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He also played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, making a Pro Bowl appearance in 2014 with the Eagles. He retired in 2019.
James Edward Pace was an American running back in the National Football League. He was also an All-American halfback who played for the University of Michigan Wolverines teams from 1955 to 1957.
DeMarcus Van Dyke is a former American football cornerback who played six seasons in the National Football League (NFL). Van Dyke is currently Cornerbacks coach for the Miami Hurricanes football team. He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 3rd round, 81st overall of the 2011 NFL Draft. He played college football for the University of Miami Hurricanes. He has also been a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs. He is now the Cornerback Coach at The University of Miami
Burnell Michael Wallace III is a former American football wide receiver. He played college football for Ole Miss, and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round, 84th overall of the 2009 NFL Draft. He also played for the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, and Philadelphia Eagles. Throughout his career, Wallace was known for his speed after finishing with a time of 4.33-seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Jacoby Ford is a former American football wide receiver and return specialist. He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He was also an accomplished track and field athlete. He played college football as a wide receiver and return specialist for the Clemson Tigers at Clemson University, where he competed in sprinting events. During his stint in the NFL, Ford was widely regarded as one of the fastest players in the league. He has one of the top 100 meter times by NFL players.
Onterio McCalebb is an American football wide receiver who is a free agent. McCalebb garnered much attention with an impressive performance in the 40-yard dash at the 2013 NFL Combine, recording an official time of 4.28 seconds, the fastest by a running back. He has also been a member of the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL.
Aaron Lockett is a former American football and Canadian football wide receiver and return specialist in the National Football League (NFL) for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, and in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Ottawa Renegades and BC Lions. He played college football at Kansas State University where he set school and Big 12 Conference football and track and field records. His brother Kevin Lockett and nephew Tyler Lockett also played wide receiver at Kansas State where they also set records.
Travis Jammal Benjamin is an American football wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at the University of Miami. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Adrion Dante "Dri" Archer is a former American football running back and return specialist. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He played college football at Kent State.
Jabrill Ahmad Peppers is an American football strong safety for the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Michigan, and was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. A standout athlete early in high school, he was named the Air Force National Sophomore of the Year in 2011. Sports Illustrated named Peppers one of their "Future Game Changers," a group of 14 young athletes who are considered to be the brightest talents of their respective sports. Peppers was named the Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year, Freshman All-American, and a Second-Team All-American in 2015. Peppers was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Linebacker of the Year, Return Specialist of the Year, and an All-American in 2016.
Jakeem Grant Sr. is an American football wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League (NFL), usually operating as a return specialist. He was drafted by the Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He played college football at Texas Tech, where he set their all-time record for receiving yards.
Christian Coleman is a currently suspended American professional track and field sprinter who competes in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash. He is the current world champion in the 100 meters. He was a double medallist at the World Championships in Athletics in 2017, winning silver medals in both the 100 m and 4 × 100-meter relay. He holds personal records of 9.76 seconds for the 100 m and 19.85 for the 200 m, and is also the world indoor record holder for the 60-meter dash with 6.34 seconds. He was IAAF Diamond League champion in 2018 and the world number one ranked runner in the 100 m for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Ty Marquise Johnson is an American football running back for the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Maryland.
Henry Ruggs III is an American football wide receiver for the Las Vegas Raiders of the National Football League (NFL). He was a three-sport athlete in high school and played college football at Alabama. Ruggs was the fastest player at the 2020 NFL combine, and he was selected by the Raiders in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Intent on building a fast team, [Paul Brown in the mid-1940s] began timing players in the 40-yard dash, rather than the 100, reasoning that the 40 was a more meaningful measure of true football speed: about the distance a player would cover on a punt.