Is Chris Johnson the Fastest Player in NFL History?

John Rozum@Rozum27Correspondent ISeptember 5, 2012

Tennessee Titans' running back Chris Johnson just went overboard.

In an interview with Erik Kuselias of Pro Football Talk from an article by Mike Florio of NBC Sports:

Johnson revisited his claim that he could beat Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt in a race. Johnson said that he would win a footrace in the range of 40 to 50 yards.

And then Johnson said something even stronger. He said that, if he were running the 40-yard dash on a track and with spikes while starting from blocks, he’d cover the ground in less than four seconds.

Sure, the confidence he emits is quite enthralling and that's much better than not believing, however, at some point a line between reality and fantasy must come up.

A 40-yard dash in under four seconds?

No, I refuse to believe—for as incredibly fast as Johnson is—that he could run faster than Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders or Darrell Green. And there's no way Usain Bolt would lose to Johnson either.

To that end, let's look at each athlete and see why each are faster than Johnson mano y mano.


Bo Jackson

For one, Bo Jackson was much bigger than Johnson at 6'1", 230 pounds and he's been said to have run 4.12 seconds. That's 0.12 better than Johnson's 4.24 at the NFL combine.

Jackson's time is confirmed in an article by Frank Cooney of the USA Today four years ago:

Bo Jackson has the best verifiable time at a combine with his 4.12-second clocking at the Louisiana Superdome in 1986.

Jackson's time of 4.12 at the Superdome is the best ever, verified by numerous reports that week in 1986, including a front-page story from USA TODAY.

And when watching Bo's highlights you can't help but believe.


Darrell Green

We're looking at a guy who ran 10.08 seconds in the 100-meter dash while at Texas A&I University.

During the early 1980s, that's world-class Olympic speed from the former Washington Redskins cornerback. In addition, Green has an unofficial time of 4.09 seconds as Matt Terl of the Redskins' official website mentions:

"I think Darrell’s fastest 40 was 4.19,” [DeAngelo] Hall said, “and mine’s 4.15. So I think even in his heyday it would’ve been a nice battle.”

Especially because Hall actually underestimated Green’s best 40 time by a full tenth of a second: unofficial records place Green’s best time as 4.09.

Not to mention Green ran a 4.2 40-yard-dash at age 40...

...and a 4.43 at age 50, per his official twitter feed from 2010:

By running the 40 yard dash in Orlando, Florida in a time of 4.43! FYI, all born between 1946 -1964 are baby boomers...

— Darrell Green (@darrellgreen28) February 15, 2010

That's one fast dude.

Deion Sanders

Only a select few are as fast as, or perhaps faster, than Primetime.

And it's those on this list.

Although he was reported to have run 4.28 seconds in the 40 at the 1989 NFL combine, the same article mentioned above by Frank Cooney states:

There are numerous stories that Deion Sanders ran faster than 4.2 seconds at another Superdome combine in 1989. However, reports from that week indicate he was timed at 4.28 seconds by one of the so-called "official" stopwatches.

But it is important to keep the term "official" in context because there is no such thing as a single "official" time at the NFL combine.

Supposedly the time Sanders clocked was 4.21 seconds, as unofficially listed at Gridiron Studs.

It's still no wonder Sanders was a ridiculous punt returner and part-time receiver.


Usain Bolt

No, he's not an NFL player, but considering that Johnson thinks he can beat Bolt, Jamaica's world record holder makes the list.

The man has the 100- and 200-meter world records at 9.58 and 19.19 seconds, respectively.

No one is faster than Usain Bolt and apparently his 40-yard-dash would break four seconds. Per Brian Billick's Twitter feed:

Based on Bolt's previous 100m times clocked at world championships, mathematicians estimate he would run 3.97 elec. #NFL style 40-yd. dash!

— Brian Billick (@CoachBillick) August 5, 2012

If there's any human with the ability to break four seconds on the 40, it's Bolt and no one else.

So Bolt aside, though, is Johnson the fastest man in NFL history?

No, but he's certainly among a select group.


Follow John Rozum on Twitter.


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