Millions have been made and lost on the 40-yard dash, football's marquee test of speed. That's asinine. If sprinter's speed was all football required, Johnny (Lam) Jones and Renaldo Nehemiah would have bronze busts in Canton. Instead, they were just busts. "There's 40 speed, and there's game speed," says Tim Brown, the Oakland Raiders' receiver who is on a straight path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Grizzled Cowboys scout Walt Yowarsky used to say, "If you like a guy, make him run faster" Cheat with the thumb on your stopwatch, in other words, or write in a fictitious time. Better yet, junk the 40.
"Defensive backs are going to get beat at times," says Larry Lacewell, the Cowboys' director of scouting. "The question is, Can they catch up?" To help determine that, the Cowboys measure "catch-up speed" by timing how long it takes a player to run each 10-yard segment of the 40. "Some guys are slowing down" by the last 10 yards, says Lacewell. "You don't want that." What you want is the burst of Roy Williams, the concussive strong safety out of Oklahoma whom Dallas selected in the first round of last spring's draft. In his predraft workout, Williams ran a 4.53-second 40. Looking beneath the surface of that good-but-not-great time, the Cowboys found reason for excitement. Williams ran his first 10 yards in 1.62 seconds, the second 10 in 1.02. "That's just outstanding," says Lacewell. "That's as fast as [ Miami corner Phillip] Buchanon ran his second 10." (Buchanon ran a blazing 4-34 40 for the Cowboys. He was plucked by the Raiders with the 17th pick.) "What that tells you," says Lacewell, "is that when Roy gets it into second gear, he's going as fast as a 189-pound corner who runs a 4.34-He's got an amazing burst." All those ballcarriers who were blown up by Williams in his Sooners career don't need a stopwatch to tell you that.