Track and Football, Part 1: All-time lists

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The other day, Tim Warsinskey of the Cleveland Plain Dealer incorrectly tweeted that Ted Ginn still holds the Ohio high school record in the 110 meter hurdles, with his 13.40 in 2004. He, in fact, never held the record, as Chris Nelloms ran 13.30 some 14 years earlier. (Warsinskey may have been confused, as Ginns 13.40 is the state meet record, but a journalist should know the difference.)

This all came up not because of Ginns notoriety as a hurdler but as an NFL return specialist. I was asked if anyone has ever compiled all-time lists for NFL players in the various track and field events. I replied that I was not aware of any, but putting one together sounded like a job for yours truly.

I dimly remembered a compilation of notable track athletes who went on to other professional sports. Google helped me find it: Track Guys Gone Bad, available at the great www.tilastopaja.org statistics website. Its a very good piece of research and quite deep. So the heavy lifting had already been done for me.

Over the years there have been a lot of discussions about who the fastest guy in the history of pro football was, and it usually comes down to Bob Hayes and Darrell Green. Notably absent from the discussion? Tommie Smith.

Yes, Tommie Smith played pro football, a total of two games for the Bengals back in the AFL days. He was signed more or less as an experiment and publicity stunt. Putting aside a longing for days when a pro football outfit would turn to track stars for publicity, we have to decide who really qualifies as a pro football player.

Heres what I decided: the athlete in question must have played the equivalent of a full season for an NFL or AFL team. That means appearing in a career total of at least 16 games, or 14 games prior to 1978. (Thus Trindon Holliday is not listed here.) Players in other leagues, such as the USFL or CFL, were eligible if they were bona fide stars who unquestionably would have made an NFL roster.

Additions, corrections and deletions are always welcome.

Here we go position, team(s) and career number of games noted

100 meters

10.01 Jacoby Ford (WR, Oakland Raiders, 23 g)
10.06 Bob Hayes (WR, Dallas/San Fran, Hall of Fame)
10.06 Ron Brown (WR, LA Rams/Raiders, 100 g)
10.07 Alvis Whitted (WR, Jacksonville/Oakland, 122 g)
10.08 Darrell Green (CB, Washington Redskins, Hall of Fame)
10.09 Sam Graddy (WR, Denver/LA Raiders, 43 g)
10.10 Willie Gault (WR, Chicago/LA Raiders, 170 g)
10.11 Mike Miller (WR, NY Giants/New Orleans, 16 g)
10.11 Curtis Dickey (RB, Balt/Ind/Clev, 85 g)
10.14 James Trapp (CB, Raiders/Balt/Jkv, 149 g)
hand timing:
10.0 Cliff Branch (WR, Oakland/LA Raiders, 183 g)

Two things to note
1. Al Davis liked speed, and the fact that seven out of the above eleven played for his Raiders really calls that into focus.
2. Johnny Majors apparently liked speed too, as Graddy, Gault and Miller all were football/track dual-sport stars for his Tennessee Volunteers.

200 meters

20.01 Michael Bates (RB, 5 teams, 145 g)
20.15 (A) Mike Miller (WR, NY Giants/New Orleans, 16 g)
20.17 James Trapp (CB, Raiders/Balt/Jkv, 149 g)
20.19 Phil Epps (WR, Green Bay/ NY Jets, 95 g)
20.23 Michael Timpson (WR, NE/Chi/Phi, 116 g)
20.27 Danny Peebles (WR, Tampa Bay/Cleveland, 30 g)
20.28 Tony Jones (WR, Houston/Atlanta, 43 g)
20.29 Alvis Whitted (WR, Jacksonville/Oakland, 122 g)
20.30 Sam Graddy (WR, Denver/LA Raiders, 43 g)
20.32 Jerome Mathis (WR, Houston Texans, 17 g)

400 meters

* = 440 yards time X 99.42%
44.94 Rod Jones (CB, Tamba Bay/Cincinnati, 146 g)
44.98* Larry Jones (DB, Washington/San Fran, 51 g)
45.17 Travis Hannah (WR, Houston Oilers, 37 g)
45.38 Patrick Johnson (WR, Balt/Wash/Jkv, 70 g)
45.69 Scott Turner (DB, Wash/SD/Denver, 101 g)
45.73 Robert Smith (RB, Minnesota Vikings, 98 g)
45.76 Ed Hervey (WR, Edmonton Eskimos, 118 g)]
45.88 Alvis Whitted (WR, Jacksonville/Oakland, 122 g)
45.91 Johnny Thomas (DB, Wash/SD/Clev/Phi, 94 g)
46.02 Russell Carter (DB, NY Jets/LA Raiders, 64 g)
hand timing:
45.4 Henry Carr (DB, NY Giants, 37 g)
45.5* Karl Farmer (WR, Atlanta/Tampa Bay, 17 g)
45.9 Darrell Green (CB, Washington Redskins, Hall of Fame)

Two things to note
1. When defensive backs show up in these rankings, it appears to be in the 400 (and hurdles, below). Is this because the position requires greater endurance, or because the 400 doesnt attract the attention hogs you tend to get at wide receiver?
2. Darrell Green was one hell of an athlete.

110 meter hurdles

* = 120 yards time + 0.04
12.93 Renaldo Nehemiah (WR, San Francisco 49ers, 40 g)
13.26 Willie Gault (WR, Chicago/LA Raiders, 170 g)
13.29 Rod Woodson (DB, Pit/SF/Bal/Oak, Hall of Fame)
13.32 Jabari Greer (CB, Buffalo/New Orleans, 106 g)
13.43 Earl McCullouch (WR, Detroit/New Orleans, 75 g)
13.46 James Owens (RB, San Fran/Tampa Bay, 70 g)
13.54* Richmond Flowers (DB, Dallas/NY Giants, 55 g)
13.56 Reyna Thompson (DB, Miami/Giants/NE, 116 g)
13.60 Qadry Ismail (WR, 5 teams, 137 g)
13.65* Don Shy (RB, Pit/NO/Chi/StL, 84 g)
hand timing:
13.3y Jerry Tarr (WR, Denver Broncos, 14 g)

400m Hurdles

* = 440 yards time X 99.42%
49.55 Paul Lankford (CB, Miami Dolphins, 130 g)
49.74 Nolan Cromwell (DB, LA Rams, 161 g)
49.77 Brian Moorman (P, Buffalo Bills, 173 g)
50.0* Jerry Tarr (WR, Denver Broncos, 14 g)
50.54 Michael Timpson (WR, NE/Chi/Phi, 116 g)
51.5* Richmond Flowers (DB, Dallas/NY Giants, 55 g)

Two things to note
1. Yes, thats the Bills punter up there at #3. Note that hes considered exceptionally athletic for a punter and competed in the 2006 Pro Bowl Skills Competition.
2. Robert Griffin III, this years Heisman winner, sports a 49.22 PR and will go to the head of the list if he makes it in the NFL.

Long Jump

8.44 Eric Metcalf (RB, 7 teams, 179 g)
8.24 James McAlister (RB, Philadelphia/New England, 43 g)
8.24 Reggie Jones (WR, Car/KC/SD, 21 g)
8.23 James Lofton (WR, 6 teams, Hall of Fame)
8.21 Vance Johnson (WR, Denver Broncos, 128 g)
8.17 Chris Sanders (WR, Houston/Tennessee, 97 g)
8.14 Latin Berry (DB, LA Rams/Cleveland, 32 g)
8.11 Bo Roberson (WR, SD/Oak/Buf/Mia, 81 g)
7.97 Johnny Hector (RB, NY Jets, 126 g)
7.92 Paul Warfield (WR, Cleveland/Miami, 157 g)
7.92 Mel Gray (WR, St Louis Cardinals, 145 g)

Two things to note
1. Eric Metcalfe is, in my opinion, on the short list for the best at both football and track; he was once the #4 long jumper in the world, and went to three pro bowls. Some of the moves he made for the Browns in the early 90s are still highlight-film material.
2. Texas Marquise Goodwin has a PR of 8.17, but it is unclear whether the Longhorn wide receiver will pursue football at a level beyond college. He is the reigning US long jump champion.

Triple Jump

17.12 Reggie Jones (WR, Car/KC/SD, 21 g)
16.81 Dokie Williams (WR, LA Raiders, 74 g)
16.73 Henry Ellard (WR, LA Rams/Wash/NE, 228 g)
16.65 Al Toon (WR, NY Jets, 107 g)
16.41 Latin Berry (DB, LA Rams/Cleveland, 32 g)

Shot Put

21.76 Michael Carter (DT, San Francisco 49ers, 121 g)
20.84 Jeff Stover (DE, San Francisco 49ers, 81 g)
20.83 Brian Robison (DE, Minnesota Vikings, 76 g)
20.20 Shane Collins (DE, Washington Redskins, 30 g)
19.46 Vince Goldsmith (DE, Sask/Calg/Toronto, 163 g)
19.42 Jonathan Ogden (OT, Baltimore Ravens, 177 g)
19.29 Tom Newberry (OG, LA Rams/Pittsburgh, 147 g)
19.03 Joe Thomas (OT, Cleveland Browns, 77 g)
18.72 John Hannah (OG, New England Patriots, 183 )g
18.36 Elvin Bethea (DE, Houston Oilers, 210 g)
18.33 Billy Joe (RB, Den/Buf/Mia/NY Jets, 78 g)
18.00 Jeff Smith (LB, NY Giants, 14 g)

Two things to note
1. Carter and Stover played on the same 49ers teams that dominated the 1980s.
2. Ogden is considered one of the greatest offensive linemen of all time and happens to also be the best shot putter at his position. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Discus Throw

64.72 Christian Okoye (RB, Kansas City Chiefs, 79 g)
63.22 Brian Milne (RB, Cin/Seattle/NO, 63 g)
61.96 Michael Carter (DT, San Francisco 49ers, 121 g)

Indoor Sprints and Hurdles

Getting accurate data here was much more difficult. These lists wont go nearly as deep.

50 meters
5.76 Darrell Green (CB, Washington, Hall of Fame)

55 meters / 60 yards
6.03y Sam Graddy (WR, Denver/LA Raiders, 43 g)
6.07 Raghib Ismail (WR, Raiders/Carolina/Dallas, 126 g)
6.18 Danny Peebles (WR, Tampa Bay/Cleveland, 30 g)
6.18y Willie Gault (WR, Chicago/LA Raiders, 170 g)
6.18 Bo Jackson (RB, LA Raiders, 38 g)
hand timing:
5.9 Bob Hayes (WR, Dallas/San Fran, Hall of Fame)

60 meters
6.51 Jacoby Ford (WR, Oakland Raiders, 23 g)
6.58 C.J. Spiller (RB, Buffalo, 28 g)

50m Hurdles
6.36 Renaldo Nehemiah (WR, San Francisco 49ers, 40 g)
6.62 Rod Woodson (DB, Pit/SF/Bal/Oak, Hall of Fame)

55m / 60y Hurdles
6.83y Renaldo Nehemiah (WR, San Francisco 49ers, 40 g)
6.96y Willie Gault (WR, Chicago/LA Raiders, 170 g)
7.11 Rod Woodson (DB, Pit/SF/Bal/Oak, Hall of Fame)

60m Hurdles
7.55 Jabari Greer (CB, Buffalo/New Orleans, 106 g)