The day after he sprinted more than 100 yards to deny Budda Baker’s bid for a pick six, DK Metcalf received an invitation to prove that he was more than just football fast.
USA Track and Field sent a tongue-in-cheek tweet encouraging the Seattle Seahawks receiver to test himself against “real speed” at the upcoming Olympic Trials.
That jab must have stoked Metcalf’s competitive fire and rekindled his dreams of representing the U.S. in the Olympics. Only days later, Metcalf’s agent dialed USA Track and Field’s Adam Schmenk and revealed his client was serious about training for the 100 meters.
“DK’s agent told us that he really wants to try to make the Olympics and asked what steps he needs to take,” Schmenk told Yahoo Sports. “We walked him through what the auto qualifying time was that he would have to run in a sanctioned USATF event and told him that we would help him find a lane if and when he wanted to do this.”
How Metcalf compares against world-class sprinters will become clearer on Sunday when he dons track spikes in a meet for the first time since high school. Metcalf is one of 16 sprinters slated to run the 100 meters at the USATF Golden Games and Distance Open in Walnut, California.
While Metcalf is undeniably one of the NFL’s fastest players, his long-shot bid to qualify for the Olympic Trials is extremely ambitious. He’d likely need to break 10.2 seconds, no easy feat for a man who didn’t compete in track and field in college and wasn’t a flat sprinter in high school.
To automatically qualify for the Olympic Trials, Metcalf must run 10.05 seconds or faster with a legal tailwind of no more than two meters per second. Eight Americans have already achieved that time during the 2021 outdoor season, according to World Athletics.
The other spots in the 32-man field at the Olympic Trials will go to the fastest men who failed to surpass the automatic qualifying mark. In 2016, it took a time of 10.16 seconds to earn a place at Trials. It was 10.28 seconds in 2012.
Oxford High School track and field coach Chris Bush told Yahoo Sports that Metcalf didn’t flash quite that kind of speed as a teenager. Metcalf ran on Oxford’s 4x100-meter relay and specialized in the hurdles and triple jump while leading the school to four consecutive state titles from 2013-16.
While Metcalf wasn’t the chiseled 6-foot-4, 235-pound specimen of today in high school, Bush still recalls him as an “intimidating force” and a “man amongst boys.” Metcalf typically ran “low-10 splits” on his leg of the 4x100-meter relay and would often blow past lesser opponents coming around the curve.
The day of Mississippi’s 2016 state meet, Bush paced back and forth nervously before the start of the 4x100-meter relay. He knew Oxford had the talent to set a state record if his sprinters performed to their capability and didn’t drop the baton.
“DK walked up and said, ‘Look Coach, we got this. Just sit back and watch,’ ” Bush recalled with a laugh. “They went on to set the state record, which they still hold.”
That’s the last track meet that Metcalf competed in, but he has demonstrated many times on the football field that he hasn’t lost a step. At the 2019 NFL scouting combine, he ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash — a blazing time for any football player, let alone a man his size. He clocked a top speed of 22.64 miles per hour while chasing down Baker from behind after a Russell Wilson interception.
While there’s a massive leap between that and making the Olympic Trials, Metcalf appears to be taking this opportunity seriously. His agent called Schmenk a second time the day after the Seahawks’ January playoff loss to let him know Metcalf had already shifted his focus to the 100 meters.
“We provided them with coaches to reach out to if they wanted to and where some of the hotbeds in the country are for training,” Schmenk said. “It sounds like he went to Arizona, which is one of the places we suggested.”
Metcalf is far from the first football player to give track and field a try. Former Chicago Bears receiver Willie Gault won a bronze medal in the 110 hurdles at the 1983 world championships and a gold medal as a member of the 4x100-meter relay. Former University of Florida running back Jeff Demps was a member of the 2012 U.S. 4x100-meter relay team at the London Olympics.
Whether Metcalf enjoys that kind of success or not, his decision to dabble in the 100 meters is a coup for USA Track and Field. If Metcalf thrives, he’ll bring star power to a sport lacking household names in this country. If Metcalf gets outclassed, it will serve as a reminder that the NFL’s fastest men still can’t keep up with the likes of Noah Lyles, Trayvon Bromell and Christian Coleman.
“We know that these professional athletes can do superhuman things, but we also know that there is typically a difference between track speed and other speed,” Schmenk said. “We hope that DK’s presence will encourage people to tune in to watch.”
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