Michigan Football: No, Denard Robinson Cannot Beat Usain Bolt in a 40-Yard Dash

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterAugust 13, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines runs past Ethan Johnson #90 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on September 11, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Michigan defeated Notre Dame 28-24.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Denard Robinson is fast. He is very, very fast. What he does in the first 10 yards when he takes off on a scramble is utter absurdity. He's quite possibly the fastest football player in the Big Ten.

That's why it's so dismaying that he thinks he can outrun Usain Bolt, who is literally the fastest sprinter in recorded history. He can't. Nobody can. Nobody ever can. That's what being the fastest sprinter in recorded history means. Bolt is the human embodiment of ludicrous speed.

Robinson and "fellow quarterback" Devin Garner (he's a receiver; come on) put forth this foolish notion at Michigan's media day over the weekend. Here's more from Fox Sports Detroit:

"I've watched him run, and I'm pretty sure I can beat him in a 40-yard dash," Robinson said at Michigan's media day on Sunday. "I'd get a better start, and I could take him.

"At 60 yards, I'd be in trouble, and at 100 meters, he'd be gone, but I could get him in a 40."

"Denard could do that in a heartbeat – he's the fastest man in the world," Gardner said. "I know what Usain Bolt did in the Olympics, and Denard probably couldn't beat him at 100 meters, but when it comes to football speed at 40 yards, I'd take Denard. He's that fast."

Not only does this concept not pass the smell test—one of these guys is the fastest man ever, and the other is Denard Robinson—but there are actual numbers to look at. And, shocker of shockers, it doesn't look good for Robinson.

Yahoo! Sports found this interview with ESPN's track and field reporter Larry Rawson, who puts Bolt's speed past a threshold that has always seemed impossible:

Rawson: "Forty yards, if he was being hand-timed by a scout and reacting to his movement - not electronically timed the way they do it [in track and field] - his 40-yard dash on a track, in spikes, would be 3.73 seconds."

Host: [Laughter] "He would run a sub four-second 40-yard dash?"

Rawson: "Listen, I did the math as though it was electronically timed, which it's not for football — electronically timed — and it came out to 3.97 seconds."


Meanwhile, CBSSports.com has its own expert on the case, and he says Robinson's not looking at this the right way in the first place:

"I love the confidence [by Robinson], but you have to look at the facts," said one collegiate track coach who has coached Olympic sprinters. "Some of the old track/football guys of old like Renaldo Nehemiah and Willie Gault supposedly ran 4.2 [seconds] in hand-timed 40 yard dashes. Before Robinson can claim to be faster than Bolt, he'd have to beat their 40s first. When he runs 4.1, let me know. That's when he can get into the conversation."

[...] In the 100 meters, as Robinson notes, runners typically don't reach their top speed until well after the 40-yard mark; Bolt himself rarely separates from the pack until the second half of the race. ("If you're only going to run 40 yards, you don't have to do speed endurance or maximum velocity work," said our collegiate track coach. "You are just talking about acceleration. You only have to do one facet of what is three facets in a 100m dash: One, acceleration. Two, maximum velocity, and three, speed endurance. With the 40-yard dash you only have to work on the one facet.") If Robinson and Bolt raced head-to-head, Robinson would likely fare much better over the first 40 yards of a 100-meter sprint than in a straight-up 40-yard sprint. But no coach anywhere would give him decent odds of actually winning at any significant distance.

So, the entire premise of this argument is that Denard Robinson can cover 40 yards faster than Bolt if Bolt's running 100 meters. But as CBSSports.com noted elsewhere in the article, Robinson's best 100-meter dash from high school is 10.56 seconds.

That's very fast! It's also nearly a full second slower than Bolt's best 100, and even if Robinson's just racing for the first 40 yards, it's extremely unlikely that he'd be able to keep pace with Bolt or any other elite sprinter. 

We hate having to talk about Denard Robinson's speed in unflattering terms, because he really is a joy to watch in the open field. But he's not as fast as Usain Bolt, because literally nobody is.