Titans running back Chris Johnson has talked endlessly this season about his speed. Whether it's challenging the Boston Celtics' guard Rajon Rondo to a race, insinuating that he could hang with Usain Bolt in a race, or laying down today's gauntlet to Chad Ochocinco, Johnson made it know just how fast he thinks he is.
Well,you can't deny he is fast, but his self-promotion got us thinking about the fastest athletes of all-time. This is a list specifically designed for professional athletes, so Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson and other Olympic track stars are excluded.
These athletes come from different backgrounds, including football, baseball, basketball and the soccer. So who is the fastest athlete of all-time?
Sanders was more known for his agility and feline moves to avoid tacklers, but in the open the field, he was one of the most difficult runners to bring down. The NFL's third all-time leading rushing couldn't be contained in either the backfield or when wrapped up. If he got free, it was usually six on the board for the Lions.
Crawford has single-handedly brought back the art of stealing bases and legging out triples. At 27, Crawford has led the league four times in stolen bases and three times in triples. He averages 54 steals and 14 triples over a 162-game span. He reached a career high with 60 steals in 2009.
"Rocket" Ismail became a star at Notre Dame, shredding college defenses and reportedly running a 4.12 40-yard dash.
His legend grew after college, when instead of going to the NFL, he signed an $18.2 million contract to play in the CFL. He played two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts before a nine-year career in the NFL. Still, Ismail will always be remembered more for his exploits on the college gridiron.
The former NFL wide receiver showed his burst on two different stages in Los Angeles. He debuted as a member of the gold medal-winning 4x100-meter team at the 1984 Summer Olympics. In 1985, his 32.8 yards per kickoff return and three return touchdowns were both tops in the NFL.
He spent the majority of his NFL career as a special teamer, catching just 98 passes in 100 games. However, his transition from the Olympic track to pads is outdone by only two other men in modern day sports.
Brock was the standard bearer of stealing bases before Rickey Henderson came along. He brought a new dimension of speed and athleticism to the game, reinvigorating the art of swiping bags. He stole 118 bases in 1974—then a single-season record—and his 938 career steals remains second all-time.
For the first three years of his career, Vince Coleman loomed as large on the bases paths as Rickey Henderson. During those years, Coleman went over the century mark in steals.
He still holds the all-time professional single-season stolen base record of 145. He registered that total in 1983 while with the St. Louis Cardinals minor league affiliate in the South Atlantic League. His 752 stolen bases ranks sixth all-time.
There is no argument for leaving off the king of stealing bases. Henderson's 1,406 career stolen bases and 130 steals in a single season are records that will NEVER be touched or even approached.
For over a decade, pitchers grasped the ball in fear over Henderson, who never met either a slide step he couldn't beat or a catcher's arm he couldn't out run.
Hester exploded on the NFL stage with his ability to go the distance and scare the snot out of opposing teams willing to kick to him.
Hester, who ran a 4.27 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine, set an NFL record for the most kick returns for touchdowns in a season with six in 2007. To date, he has returned 11 kicks and punts for touchdowns in the regular season.
That puts him two shy of tying the league mark. His total ties Brian Mitchell's record if one includes his kick return in Super Bowl XLI and his run back on a missed field goal for a 108-yard score on Nov. 12, 2006 against the Giants.
At 25, this Spanish-born Premier League player has become one of the best strikers in the world due to a speed that torments opposing defenses. Most recently, the Liverpool star was named to the FIFPro World XI for 2008 and 2009 as one of the three best forwards in the world.
Ronaldo's speed has made him one of the most lethal goal scorers in the entire world. His speed, footwork, and finishing prowess have made him the recipient of numerous individual awards including FIFA World Player of the Year in 2008 and FIFPro World Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008.
Carlos Gomez may never put it together with the bat, but numbers do not tell the story of just how fast Gomez really is. During my days covering the Mets' farm system, I clocked Gomez at 3.4 seconds down the first base line and as fast as 3.1 seconds stealing second base. To put that in perspective, many pitchers take upwards of 1.6-1.7 seconds to delivery the ball to the plate. Gomez's pure speed translates to the outfield where nothing is out of his range.
Gault was another Olympic track star-turned-football player in the 1980s. Gault was a member of the 1980 Olympic team that boycotted the Games, but got another big reward as a member of the Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX team.
He earned a gold and bronze medal in the 4x100 relay and the 110-meter hurdles respectively at the 1983 World Championships. At Tennessee, he was an All-American wide receiver in 1982.
There was no answer for Allen Iverson's speed when he arrived in the NBA. Iverson down court speed, his quickness around defenders' footwork with the ball, make him one of the greatest small guards in NBA history.
Currently, Randy Moss is better known for his sideline temperament and alligator arms when going over the middle. However, in his first few seasons in Minnesota, he was a deep threat unlike any the NFL had ever seen. He made 50-yard bombs look like a game of catch with Randall Cunningham. Moss owns the single-season touchdown mark for rookies.
He also holds the all-time mark for touchdown receptions in a season with 23 and was the primary receiver on the two most productive offenses in NFL history.
Herb Washington was a natural burner who dabbled in just about any sport where he could use speed as a weapon. Washington ran a 9.3 in the 100-yard dash in high school and set world indoor records in the 60-yard dash during his days at Michigan State. He tried his luck in the NFL and spent two seasons with the Oakland Athletics where he was, almost exclusively, a pinch-runner.
At 36, Carlos has slowed down a step, but during his prime he brought track star speed to the pitch. He reportedly ran 100 meter in 10.4 and reached a maximum speed of nearly 34 km/hour. He wavered as a proficient goal-scorer, but his speed made him one of the most aggressive midfielders in the world.
Walker was the epitome of size and power during his days at Georgia. The 1982 Heisman winner could run someone over and leave them in his wake. Walker ran the 100-yard dash in 9.3 seconds and a 4.2 in the 40-yard dash.
Joey Galloway blew up stopwatches when he ran reportedly ran a 4.1 40-yard dash coming out of Ohio State. Galloway became one of the best deep threats in the NFL during his early years with the Seattle Seahawks and remained one even into thirties when he went to Tampa Bay.
Mickey Mantle could do it all, even run. He was one of the greatest five-tool players of all-time and was arguably the best major leaguer ever before an ill-placed drainage valve grabbed his spikes and shredded his knee during the 1951 World Series. His speed was never the same again, leaving many to wonder "what if" Mantle hadn't been in right field that day.
Deion Sanders' coverage skills made him the best shutdown cornerback of all time, but his natural speed made him the most entertaining football player ever. The opposition who tried to track him down following one of his 53 career interceptions, were no match for the high-stepping, heel-clicking "Prime Time." Reports of Sanders' 40 time range anywhere from 4.09 to 4.27.
Bo Jackson, arguably the greatest two-sport star ever, was a combination of blinding speed, bad crunching power and a vacuum in the outfield during his big league playing days. Once in the open field, there was simply no catching up to Jackson who made even the fastest NFL defenders look like snails.
Chris Johnson supposedly ran the fastest 40 time in combine history when he clocked in at 4.24 seconds. Since then, he has been a terror in the NFL. His three touchdown runs of 85 yards or more are unparalleled in league history and in 2009 he became the sixth running back to eclipse 2,000 yards.
The history of Cool Papa Bell now lives in annals of Negro League Baseball. Bell, who played in the Negro Leagues for 27 years, is said to have run around the bases in 12 seconds, scored from second base on a sacrifice fly and went from first to third on a bunt.
Satchel Paige remarked, "If Cool Papa had known about colleges or if colleges had known about Cool Papa, Jesse Owens would have looked like he was walking."
Before there was "Prime Time," there was Darrell Green who reigned as the fastest man in the NFL. Green unofficially ran the 40 in 4.09 seconds and was a stellar track runner in college.
On the track, Green was clocked at 10.08 in the 100-meter, 20.50 in the 200-meter and 45.90 in the 400-meter.
"Bullet Bob" was once not only the fastest man in the NFL, but the former Olympic gold medalist was viewed as the fastest man in the world. At the 1964 Summer Olympics, he set a world record in the 100-meter dash with a 10.06. He was also part of gold medal winning 4x100 relay team that set a world record in 39.06.
With the Cowboys, he twice led the league in touchdown receptions and had the club's single-game yardage mark of 246 receiving yards until Miles Austin broke it this season.
Hayes remains the icon of all track stars who have ever considered a jump to the NFL.