Why the 40-yard dash still matters

By Gavin Porter | Posted 3/16/2017

A few weeks ago hundreds of NFL hopefuls participated in the 2017 NFL Combine.

One of the marquee events is the 40-yard dash, a drill that athletes also do at USA Football Regional Development Camps (RDCs).

Aaron Ingram, senior manager of the National Team program, explains why, in an age of advanced metrics, stats and highlight tapes, scouts still care about the 40-yard dash.

“Historically the 40-yard dash is a benchmark for performance,” Ingram said, "because it provides us with tons of information on an athlete. It’s also a tangible factor that aids the decision-making process.”

Ingram uses the 40-yard dash to identify how athletic a player is. Ingram and other evaluators look for an athlete’s ability to accelerate to a top speed, explode out of their stance, demonstrate good feet and show consistency.

Ingram believes that true speed is anything after an athlete hits the 20-yard mark and that is when evaluators are looking to see if an athlete can maintain top speed, continue to accelerate and finish.

 “Athletes can’t hide after the first 20-yards,” Ingram said. “The 40 shows if an athlete is capable of running smoothly, their athleticism and their gait (pigeon toed, stiff hips, not natural).”

In the football world, running a 40-yard dash is almost a rite of passage. If an athlete is gifted enough to make it to the NFL level, they will have to participate in the drill at some point. Running the 40-yard dash at an RDC gives an athlete a chance to experience the drill and receive quality coaching during it.

“Sooner or later someone is going to make them run it,” Ingram said. “RDCs might be the first time they have ever run one. It is a learning point and an opportunity to improve as an athlete.”

Running the 40-yard dash at an RDC also allows athletes to compare themselves to other top athletes in their region. Additionally, it gives them information to share with potential colleges during the recruiting process.

Ingram offered advice to 40-yard dash participants as they try to improve:

  • Focus on your technique and your stance.
  • Start quick. Explode off the line.
  • Be relaxed while you run. This helps prevent a slow start and injury during the drill.
  • Finish all the way through the 40-yards. Letting off the gas early does you no favors.


Catching the attention of evaluators and coaches isn’t the easiest to do, but an impressive 40-yard dash can do the trick. Just look at former Washington receiver John Ross, whose record-setting time of 4.22 has scouts enamored with his athleticism.

Ingram and other evaluators believe that an athlete with true speed can be a dynamic addition and difference maker on the football field.

And identifying that true speed all starts with the 40-yard dash.

For more information on USA Football Regional Development Camps, click here: https://usafootball.com/events/regional-development-camps/