The Seattle Seahawks’ Pro Bowl wide receiver failed to advance to the final, turning in a 10.37-second performance that was last in his nine-runner heat and 15th among the 17 runners in the event at the USA Track and Field Golden Games at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. (The time was originally posted as 10.36, then changed on the USATF website.) A 10.05 with a legal tail wind of no more than two meters per second would have brought an automatic invitation to the Olympic Trials next month.
Cravon Gillespie won the final in 9.96 seconds, with Isiah Young second in 9.99.
“I’m just happy to be here, excited to have the opportunity, thank God for the opportunity to run against world-class athletes like this,” Metcalf said (via NBC). “Just to test my speed against world-class athletes like this. … They do this for a living. This is very different from football speed.”
Metcalf decided to attempt to qualify for the U.S. team after he became an Internet sensation last fall when he ran down the Arizona Cardinals’ Budda Baker, who appeared headed for a nearly 100-yard pick six, and stopped him short of the goal line. Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll called it “one of the best football plays I’ve ever seen.”
Renaldo Nehemiah, a former hurdler who spent three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, was skeptical about Metcalf’s chances of surprising the world — and he wasn’t alone.
“There’s not a sprinter in the world who will let this guy think he can run with them,” Nehemiah told the Associated Press last week. “They will destroy him. It’s a noble gesture but an exercise in futility. It really is. No offense to DK; I’m a fan of his. I applaud him for wanting to find out — and find out he will.”
The difference was apparent even as he ran down Baker. “If you put a world-class track athlete in the same spot, he would be 10 meters in front of Baker and waiting for Baker,” he said. “People just don’t understand world-class speed.”
Starring in both sports has lured plenty of athletes. Bob Hayes, Herschel Walker, Jim Thorpe, Nate Ebner, Tommie Smith and Marquise Goodwin have doubled up. Carl Lewis, who won nine gold medals, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys but never played in an NFL game.
Mike Rodgers, a 2016 Olympian who ran in Metcalf’s 100 heat, was similarly dubious about Metcalf’s chances. “Football players don’t have any clue,” he said last week (via the AP). “I think his biggest issue is going to be the start,” Rodgers added, “because in the 40-yard dash, you can start whenever you want to start. He’s going to deal with the start, the starting blocks, stuff like that.”
Rodgers also noted that 40 yards is only one-third of the distance Metcalf would be running Sunday. During his rundown of Baker, Metcalf was clocked at 22.64 mph. According to Next Gen Stats, that was the fourth-fastest speed of any NFL player last season. He also covered 108.8 yards on the play, the most traveled on a tackle from scrimmage.
“By no means am I discounting DK,” Rai Benjamin, a 400 hurdler and a favorite to bring home a medal from Tokyo, said last week (via the AP). “I think he’s a phenomenal athlete, and it takes a lot of guts and heart to actually come out and line up against the guys that are in the field.”
Metcalf, who is 23 and listed at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, had not participated in track since he was at Oxford High in Mississippi. In the 2019 NFL combine, he flashed 4.33 speed in the 40.
“I hope he doesn’t think he’s getting out here with some average Joes,” Rodgers said. “It’s a pride thing for track athletes. We’ve been hearing about this for so long, so giving him a proper introduction to track is going to be everything to everybody in the track world.”