I was reading the paper earlier this week, shocking to some people that I can read and even more shocking to others that I’m reading a physical paper.  I came across a press release for a high school combine that was coming to three different areas in Ohio.  Since the combines for the NFL have become so popular, football combines for high school athletes have really grown in the last few years.

Some of my athletes have even participated in these combines, paying anywhere from $40 to $200 to participate.  The hope is to do well at these combines and then their results will be shared with tons of football coaches throughout the land.  For many of these kids, the money and time is wasted because they end up not playing football in college.  So when I see announcements for these combines my response is basically this…

If you can’t run a fast 40, then don’t go

Like it or not, that seems to be the single most looked at number that determines if the athlete is worthy of a second look.  It stinks that is what these coaches go by, but that is reality.  If you aren’t stacking up to certain measurables, your chances of getting that college scholarship start to go down.  If you are a big time recruit, those measurables either won’t matter as much or you already have them.  But, most of you aren’t big time recruits.

Let’s examine what exactly I’m talking about.

You should take your position into account

If you are a punter, kicker, or long snapper, then I would say don’t worry about your 40 time.  You have other responsibilities.

If you are a quarterback, you should try to get your 40 as fast as possible, especially in this age of dual-threat quarterbacks.  But, you should be better with your decision making and your ability to throw with accuracy and velocity.  I’m not a quarterback coach so I can’t help you with that.

For all other positions on the football field, the 40 time needs to be fast.  The further away you get from the linemen, the faster that time needs to be.  How fast that 40 should be is relative to your position.

Wide receivers and cornerbacks have to be the fastest guys on the field.  If you want to catch a college coaches eye at the minimum you need to have a 4.5 or below.  Sometimes running backs need to have that number as well, but it could potentially be as high as a 4.6.

Linebackers are probably more like running backs, but I would be gracious enough if they ran a 4.7 or below.  It would open eyes up.  Finally, linemen need to be between I think a 4.9 and 5.1 to open some eyes with defensive ends being the fastest of the bunch.

Factors besides speed do matter

I am going to pre-empt some arguments right now.  Yes, I understand that there are some other intangibles that could sway the balance.  If you are a lineman standing at 5’10” and 200 pounds, but can run a 4.8 in the 40, major Division 1 programs aren’t going to be looking at you.  So, having the right size for your position is key.  If you are a running back or receiver, being able to catch the ball is somewhat important.

But speed stands out 

All things being equal, if you have a 6’1 200 pound receiver who can’t catch, but makes enough plays to utilize his 4.4 speed in the 40, that is appealing.  A college coach might offer him the scholarship over the sure handed receiver who has the same size, but runs a 4.7 in the 40.

Also, how you are being timed is important.  You need to make note of that to a college coach.  So, if you run a 4.4 hand timed start/hand timed finish 40 yard dash, that is comparable to about a 4.5 hand timed start/electronic finish (like at the NFL combine).  It is probably comparable to a 4.6 – 4.62 electronic start and electronic finish 40 yard dash.

It’s not worth it if you’re slow

My point is if you are running a 5.1 in the 40 as a receiver, unless you are doing some speed training with a speed guru who can shave .5 – .6 of a second off your time (which is tough to do depending on how much time you have to work with).  I wouldn’t bother doing the combine test.  No matter if you do well in all the other tests, coaches see your slow 40, they will just pass you over.

If you’re close,  train and improve your speed beforehand

If you are close to some of the suggested times I mentioned, and you have taken into consideration to the adjustments (hand or electronically timed), and you are relatively close to those numbers, do some speed training and get coached up.  I just listened to Loren Seagraves speak at a conference recently (a speed coaching legend) and he was able to get .4 of a second off of Stephen Hill’s 40 time in 6 weeks.  Got him down to a 4.3 and an NFL contract.

Other speed coaches who don’t have Loren’s background should be able to get at least .2 of a second minimum  off your time.  So, if you are within that, start speed training and get noticed.