Ashton Eaton vs. Pro Athletes

At Let’s Run the following question was posed:
In any of the major sports – pro baseball, football, basketball or even soccer could any athlete in the top professional league beat Ashton Eaton if they competed in one event?

It devolves into the usual, six pages of poor thinking and insults. But the question itself is an interesting one, and worth looking at.

Let’s go through the decathlon events, one by one.

100 meters. Eaton’s PR of 10.21 is faster than all but a few dozen NFLers have ever run. The two fastest ever are Trindon Holliday and Jacoby Ford, with PRs of 10.00 and 10.01, and both are active NFL players. I suspect it wouldn’t take much track-specific training and racing for them to be able to beat Eaton, but no one else can.

Long Jump. Only one NFL player in history has ever long jumped further than Eaton’s 27′ 3/4″ from last weekend, and that’s Eric Metcalfe, the former career punt return scoring record holder. No current pro athlete can jump within the same zip code as Eaton.

Shot Put. Here’s where Eaton is beatable by many. More than two dozen college football players this year alone threw further than Eaton’s PR of 14.74. The best of them, Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s offensive lineman and shot put All-American Terron Armstead, is a realistic NFL prospect. It wouldn’t be hard to find an NFL lineman or linebacker who could beat Eaton. Interestingly enough, the second-best shot putter ever to play in the NFL is Jeff Stover, who doubled up in track at Oregon.

High Jump. Eaton might be able to be beaten here, as well. His career best is 6′ 11″, and Oregon State’s wide receiver Obum Gwachum has beaten that several times. (Yes, Gwachum is a collegian and not a pro, but this is for comparison’s sake.) One presumes that if you couldn’t find a seven-foot high jumper in the NFL, you could find one in the NBA.

400 meters. Only four NFL players have ever run faster than Eaton’s PR of 45.39, and none of them are active. Interestingly enough, one of them is Patrick Johnson, who also ran track at Oregon.

110 meter hurdles. Eaton’s PR of 13.34 is insanely fast. Only four NFLers in history have ever run faster than that, and three of them earned World Rankings in the hurdles: Renaldo Nehemiah, Willie Gault, and Rod Woodson. No one in any pro sport could come close to Eaton.

Discus Throw. Eaton isn’t a terribly good discus thrower. For comparison’s sake, he wouldn’t rank in the top 20 this year’s college footballers who also throw the discus. You’d have to presume you could find a former discus thrower in the NFL who could beat him given a bit of practice time.

Pole Vault. The only professional athletes who can beat what Eaton did on Saturday are professionals in track and field. If there are pro athletes who had been good pole vaulters at one point in their life, they’d still be lucky to be within five feet of him right now.

Javelin Throw. Eaton’s weak points are all of the throws. The only part of his body that isn’t a lightning bolt is his right arm. It wouldn’t be hard to find an NFL quarterback or major league pitcher who could beat him in the jav.

1500 meters. Eaton ran about the equivalent of a 4:35 mile on Saturday. It would be hard to find anyone who could beat that who is currently in the NFL, NHL, NBA or major leagues. However, I think there are probably a few in MLS who could do it.

So…Ashton Eaton versus the entirety of North American major professional sports leagues? I think Eaton probably wins. That’s how good he is.

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9 Responses to Ashton Eaton vs. Pro Athletes

  1. Michael says:

    Hi, great article.

    I was wondering where you got the statistics from where you list the top NFL track & field athletes. Sorry if this is blatantly obvious, I’m from the UK and am very interested in perusing them!


  2. tracksuperfan says:
  3. Paul says:

    What about Donald Driver of the Packers who has a lifetime PR of 7 feet 6 inches in the high jump?

  4. tracksuperfan says:

    I don’t know what Driver’s PR is but it most certainly not 7′ 6″. He was never listed in Track and Field News’ US top 50 lists, nor did he ever qualify to an NCAA Championships (and when he was in college there were no regionals, you qualified by marks alone). TFN does not have any meet results of his ever appearing in the pages of the magazine.

  5. Francis A Schiro says:

    Jesse…as usual a well written well researched informative article..thank you. Another consideration of the difficulty of what Eaton is doing is that he puts up those times/places WITHIN a 48 hour framework…I would imagine by the time the 1500 is called to the line he may be a bit fatigued regardless of prior training.

  6. Sam says:

    First, I think the original idea from letsrun was to give the non-track athletes some training.

    I think you might be discounting some of the endurance of basketball players.

    An idea I would like to see as a made for tv deal: Eaton versus the pros (not that Eaton is not a pro). This is partly inspired by the old TV show “Superstars”. The format would be that over 10 days Eaton would take on a pro from another sport in an event. So day 1 it might be Eaton v Holliday in the 100m. Day 2 would be Eaton v someone in the LJ. Continued.

  7. Tim says:

    Wasn’t Michael Carter the best shot putter line man for the 49:ers ?

  8. Travis says:

    Very interesting article and well written. I do, however, think it is important to mention the potential that some pro athletes present. I agree that if you were to contact them to set up a competition within the next month or two, Eaton would blow them out of the water. But the ultimate question is: If these professional athletes trained for a decathlon (or even the individual events) their whole lives, would they beat him? I still think the answer is no considering he just set the WR, but I doubt anybody could seriously argue that our best athletes don’t compete in Olympic sports.

  9. Maserda says:

    Shaq did that recently in his own terrible show “Shaq Vs.” ( What was silly about the “Shaq Vs.” show was how much of a handicap he gave himself in order to edge out the competing talent. I only saw the episode where he ran against Tyson Gay (Gay running 60m when Shaq only needed to run 30m in one race: Shaq won; and then a 4x50m relay where the teams were mixtures of track, basketball, and football pros: Gay’s team won but I forget who the team members were)