Last night, Justin Gatlin captured a silver medal in the 100-meter dash with a blistering time of 9.89 seconds. If it weren’t for the sentient blur known as Usain Bolt, Gatlin would have captured his second Olympic gold medal.
The idea of Bolt pursuing a career in the NFL has always been a fun hypothetical, but Gatlin actually did give football a shot. In 2006, he was hit with a four-year ban from track & field after testing positive for a banned substance. According to current Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, Gatlin toyed with the idea of playing football during that time. In 2008, he even attended a tryout for the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats:
Though Gatlin’s football career never materialized, he was exactly as impressive as you might expect during the 40-Yard Dash portion of the tryout. The current record for the fastest 40-Yard Dash in NFL Combine history sits at 4.24, shared by Rondel Melendez and Chris Johnson. But those guys were running in near perfect conditions—they were indoors, running on quality turf and, most importantly, they were wearing cleats. For Gatlin to post a 4.25 40-Yard Dash (which would’ve been the third-fastest time in NFL Combine history) on grass in sneakers is just flat out absurd.
Hawkins elaborated on his tweet at a recent media availability. “I didn’t know who (Gatlin) was at first. But then he ran his 40, and it was like he shot out of a rocket. It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen,” Hawkins said. However, the rest of Gatlin’s game wasn’t quite as impressive. “If I was a GM, I probably wouldn’t have given him a contract. But he was extremely fast”
That wasn’t Gatlin’s only pro football tryout, however. He also attended the Tampa Bay Buccaneers minicamp in 2007. “Track and field, you go out there and run, you’re the fastest guy, that’s what it is, you’re the fastest guy,” Gatlin told ESPN. “In football you might have the fastest go route or the sickest cuts out there, but if you ain’t what they’re looking for out on this field then take a number and get in line.”
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