Every football player covets a fast 40-Yard Dash time. A blazing 40 can gain the attention of coaches and scouts, and it looks downright impressive. It's a source of pride on the field, akin to a big Bench Press in the weight room.
Yet it seems every high school football player we talk to can run a 4.40-second 40.
Our immediate reaction: "Holy cow! You're clearly going D-I. Heck, that's better than most NFL prospects!"
And it's faster than most pro football players. The chart below from MileHighReport.com shows the positional average 40-Yard Dash times active NFL players during the 2013 season.
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The fastest average time is a 4.48, which raises a serious red flag. How can high school football players run faster than NFL players? These times were posted at the NFL Combine, which makes us even more suspicious.
To prepare for the Combine, prospects spend about two months training at elite sports performance facilities to improve their 40-Yard Dash times—as well as their performance on other tests. They achieve their goals with a combination of explosive strength work and constant practice to hone their technique.
As a high school athlete, you are still developing your strength and speed. You may have worked on your 40 technique, but nowhere near the level of a Combine athlete. Your training goal is to improve your football skills. Combine athletes train in programs that are specifically designed to improve their 40 times.
See the problem here? A 4.4 in high school is highly improbable, and definitely less frequent than is typically advertised.
But we aren't calling high school football players liars. It all comes down to timing.
At the high school level, the 40-Yard Dash is usually timed by hand, meaning a person with a stopwatch clocks your 40. At the NFL Combine, the 40 is electronically timed, which produces consistently slower but more accurate times.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the hand-timed method produces average 40 times 0.31 seconds faster, and as much as 0.42 seconds faster. Timed electronically, your 4.4 seconds quickly become 4.71.
Most high school 40 times are recorded by individuals who are inexperienced in timing the 40-Yard Dash. If your buddy or parent timed you, your results might be even more skewed.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some of you might in fact have a ridiculously fast 40, and that's fantastic. But if you want to assess how your speed really stacks up, get your 40-Yard Dash time tested electronically.