The 40-yard dash. It’s the sexy event of the NFL combine. While the wide receivers, corners, and running backs can sit comfortably in the fast lane, it takes other position players time to shift out of first gear.
Every February, Rich Eisen of the NFL Network keeps his suit and tie on, laces up a pair of speedster kicks, and tries to better his 40-yard dash time from the year before. It’s always an enjoyable video to watch as the producers at the NFL Network put him up against the fastest (and slowest) athletes in the respective year’s draft class.
Last May, I had the opportunity to get an official 40 time (like Eisen) thanks to SPARQ which is an assessment tool for high school athletes that evaluates their athleticism as football players. I stepped out on to the field at Laney College in Oakland, loosened up the old muscles, and was looking forward to getting a true reading of how fast (or slow) I truly was. Tim Tebow, Darrelle Revis, and Nnamdi Asomugha were in attendance and led the group of 20 or so reporters in warm up drills prior to running.
I shook out the cobwebs, stood in line, and listened to Tebow instruct the participants ahead of me to “run all the way through, run a straight line, and keep your back foot still until you’re ready to take off.” Great, I thought. I have to run this in front of Tim Tebow – the guy who killed the 40 as a high school and college athlete. I bent down on the turf, setting my feet, and literally found myself in the shadow of Tebow.
“Run all the way through and pump those arms. Get it, girl,” were his final words of encouragement.
I leaped forward, legs and arms churning as fast as possible as I saw the 10, 20, and 30 yard line fly before my eyes. “All the way through” is all I heard as I approached the 40. Slightly out of breath, I walked back to the line for round two.
“Your last one was good, but this one can be faster,” said Tebow. “Run a straight line and shorten your stride.”
I bent over again, placing one hand on the ground and thinking myself to Usain Bolt-like speed. I like pressure and I like running, but I’m not a huge fan of running under pressure.
I shot across the starting line again, head down until I reached the 15 then I lifted my head to carry the rest of my body for the remaining 25 yards. That one felt faster. It felt cleaner and smoother.
I walked back to the timing area.
“Good job,” Tebow said. “You’re second one was faster.”
While my performance in the 40 is not my most athletic feat to date, I’m proud to say that I ran it faster than Rich Eisen. Maybe that’s just because Tebow was watching, coaching, and encouraging.
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