Monday, September 22, 2008

Usain Bolt to NFL?

It has been a while since I've posted a blog- sorry! I've been attempting to balance work, sports, newspaper, algebra, chemistry, Spanish III and advance placement English all at once. This next blog was my contribution to "The Wolfpack" a.k.a my school paper. It may be old news, but it was for the September issue. I will try to get some more blogs in, thanks for your patience!


It takes Olympic Champion Usain Bolt 9.69 seconds to run 100 meters. That’s 23 miles per hour on average (more than twice our school parking lot speed limit), and a 3.5 second 40 yard dash. Even though it’s impossible, if he kept that pace for a mile, he would be done in less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Standing 6’5”, Usain Bolt has the height and certainly the speed to be a fantastic football player. The question is, would Bolt be able to adjust to the NFL, and is he even eligible?

The rumor of Bolt joining the NFL has been heavily discussed, the topic even reaching ESPN. Mark Schlereth, an anchor for ESPN, commented on the possibility of the world class sprinter making it in professional football.

“I think he’d be a terrible football player…it’s not just speed, its intelligence.” Schlereth also mentioned that Bolt is “not familiar with the game” and therefore would not be a successful football player.

“Which NFL team wouldn’t want a guy that could stretch the field vertically? I mean that’s what it’s all about, loosening up the defense,” said Trev Alberts of Sprint Sports.

Both sportscasters have a point. Experience is something that can’t be taught; only time could transform Bolt from a sprinter to a football player. However, the fact that Bolt is so athletic and perfectly built to be a wide receiver or kick returner means that the young man does have potential. Built like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, Bolt could become a great player with the right training, if he puts the time into it.

So let’s say Bolt decides he wants to play football. Is it even possible? He didn’t attend college, and most think that it’s required to do so to play.

Here’s your answer: yes. While the majority of the players drafted are the ones who played in college, the rule for draft eligibility has nothing to do with college. A player is eligible to sign up for the draft once three years have passed since his high school graduation. Bolt is 22 years old, and is therefore qualified to be drafted.

“The NFL is much different than running 100m or 200m races all the time,” said Junior Alex (private last name). “It requires a lot of side to side movement, especially when you have to slip tackles…I personally think that the most he could be at first would be some sort of a utility player along the lines of Devin Hester,”

“[Bolt] would be garbage cause of his weight… [football is] much different than on the track running straight,” Demarcus (private last name), senior said. Evan (private last name), junior, believes Bolt would get “slaughtered” by the defenders.

“The fact that he has to be on a team is a setback. He is a one man show and he likes it that way,” Ben Quarrels, junior, said. Celebrating before finishing many of his races, one can see by how he ran in the Olympics that he is in no way a team oriented type of guy, and that could factor in to whether or not he would even get playing time.

Back in 1984 a similar situation occurred, Olympic champion Carl Lewis was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 12th round of the ’84 draft. Lewis ended up not playing in any games, and chose to stay in track and field.

With modern technology, however, it might be easy for Bolt to be a better player than expected. The gloves that receivers wear are extremely sticky, making it much easier to catch a football. Many quarterbacks these days have extremely strong arms, they could just heave one downfield and Bolt is fast enough and tall enough to leap over everybody on the field for a catch.

However, there are intangibles that Bolt can’t learn overnight; reading the defenses, knowing where the ball is going to be in 20mph wind, knowing his quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses, the list goes on and on. If Bolt were to join the NFL, it’s likely he wouldn’t really flourish into a great receiver until his 4th or 5th year in the league. Experience is Bolt’s only weakness, and if he stuck with it he would be an amazing player.

The rumor has generated much discussion, but in the end it is very unlikely that Bolt will even want to play. With incoming endorsements from his gold medals, advertisements, and other deals, Bolt is set financially and doesn’t need to risk his health for football. However, it would be an interesting transition that would bring attention and money to the NFL, gathering viewers from Jamaica and other islands. The NFL can be very persuasive, and Bolt could eventually end up in pads at the rookie combine. After all, you never know where lightning will strike.

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