Kevin Snead is about to bring the adage “football has turned into a track meet” to the game’s biggest stage.
The wide receiver and return specialist out of Division II Carson-Newman just landed a spot on the New York Giants’ 90-man training camp roster, and if his blazing speed survives the blazing heat of the NFL’s salaryman “Hunger Games” and he beats out 37 other tributes to make the final 53-man cut, he could be going full Road Runner on cooler Sundays this fall.
— C-N Athletics (@CNathletics) May 15, 2017
Snead ran a 4.22 40-yard dash at the University of Tennessee pro day, matching the record-setting time of Cincinnati Bengals first-round pick John Ross at the NFL combine.
He’s been clocked at 10.21 seconds in the 100 meters. While that 100 time doesn’t exactly make him an Olympic sprinter (Usain Bolt ran that far in 9.58 seconds at a meet in Berlin), that’s freaky fast for a football player. If he gets loose, he’s gone. The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association dubbed him “the Fastest Man in College Football” last year.
Snead caught only five balls in college, but he broke a kickoff return for a touchdown during his lone season on the Carson-Newman football team; if that speed can translate into the flow of an NFL game, he could be the most dynamic return man since Devin Hester.
It’s not like these bottom-of-the-roster guys never make the team, either. The Giants gave some run to Will Tye in a similar position a couple of years back, and now he’s their starting tight end. (Well, he was before they drafted Evan Engram in the first round.)
What’s more, track stars becoming factors in the NFL is as old as the league itself. Literally, in fact; Jim Thorpe, who won two gold medals in the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, ended up on the Canton Bulldogs back when the “national” football league was mainly blue-collar coal towns in the Midwest.
Glenn “Jeep” Davis, winner of the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles in 1956 in Melbourne and 1960 in Rome, spent the 1960 and 1961 seasons in Detroit running away from and jumping over defenders with the Lions.
Renaldo Nehemiah, who set a world record in the 110-meter hurdles and missed out on a chance at Olympic gold only because the United States boycotted the Moscow Games in 1980, played three years with the San Francisco 49ers and won a Super Bowl title as part of the receiving corps.
Terry Bradshaw, before he threw the football for the four-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, set the American record in the javelin throw, and one hopes he didn’t hit a receiver right between the numbers with that one.
Marquise Goodman, currently catching balls for the 49ers, competed in the long jump at the Olympics and won silver in that event at the 2015 Pan Am Games.
That’s the bar that’s been set for Snead. Track athletes have succeeded in the NFL before.
And as if all that weren’t enough, the Giants have a positional need for just that sort of return man; they had six picks in the 2017 draft and didn’t take anyone who jumps out at you as a guy with explosive return speed, and putting someone like Odell Beckham Jr. back there is just asking to get him killed.
So if Snead works hard, puts in his reps and maybe busts out for a touchdown in a preseason game to get himself on the highlight shows, we might be seeing another name added to the list of comparables the next time a track guy tries to play in the NFL.
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