American sprint icon explains the real difference between track and NFL speed with regards to gazelles and cheetars

American sprint icon explains the real difference between track and NFL speed with regards to gazelles and cheetars

Mark Kinyanjui 17:16 - 30.04.2024

Gatlin has weighed in on the real difference between track speed and American football speed after being asked whether he would consider playing it now.

The debate over the speed of athletes in American football versus track and field has long been a topic of discussion, with speculation and challenges aimed at settling the matter once and for all. 

In 2023, Miami City receiver Tyreek Hill even went as far as challenging Usain Bolt, the legendary sprinter, to a race to determine who truly reigns as the fastest.

However, sprint icon Justin Gatlin has stepped in to provide clarity on the matter, debunking the notion that one form of speed is superior to the other.

 Gatlin, known for his prowess on the track, shared his insights on the differences between American football speed and track and field speed on his Ready-Set-Go YouTube channel.

Gatlin emphasized that the distinction between the two types of speed lies in muscle structure and training methods. 

"Football players train and lift differently from track athletes. They require dense muscles because of the pounding and beating they are going to get on the football field and then trying to balance dense muscles with the speed they do have, which means they carry more weight."

Drawing from his experience with former track athlete and football player Jeff Demps, Gatlin highlighted the importance of muscle flexibility and mobility for football players. 

He recounted how Demps, while competing in both track and football, would diligently work to keep his muscles loose and prevent injuries caused by the dense muscle memory required for football.

“When Jeff Demps was running track and playing football, we would go to track meets together and we would be roommates and he would literally foam roll all night long. He would be rolling on a tennis ball or soft ball   trying to get his muscles loose because his muscle memory was denseless.

“He had to make sure he loosened up his muscles so he would not pull or strain anything while he was trying to accelerate.

Gatlin stressed that speed in both sports involves more than just raw velocity. Athletes must also prepare their bodies for sudden stops, quick turns, and directional changes inherent in football and track events.

 He compared the dynamic between a gazelle and a cheetah, illustrating how the cheetah's superior straight-line speed is complemented by its ability to maneuver and adjust its trajectory to catch its prey.

“A gazelle can run a top speed and then turn on a dime. Who is chasing a gazelle? A cheetah. A cheetah has more superior speed. 

“If it is a straight line, it can catch a gazelle all day long , but it had to evolve to be able to turn and maneuver its speed to keep up with the gazelle because of those sharp turns and those angles.”

In essence, Gatlin's insights highlight the nuanced nature of speed in athletics. While track athletes may excel in straight-line sprints, football players possess a unique blend of speed, power, and agility tailored to the demands of their sport