This is a completely random time to post about this, but almost a year after the fact, it’s still a topic…
When Usain Bolt dominated last year’s Olympic sprints, winning and setting records in both the 100m and 200m, questions arose with Americans if he could be a good NFL player. It was a topic of discussion for a month or so, maybe more, but it’s been put on the back burner. First off, he would not stop being a sprinter. There’s so much money and national pride involved, and that’s the thing that he has to thank for his fruitful career. But, it’s still fun to debate what could happen if he were a football player.
Now, how did the NFL become the main choice for a crossover sport for Bolt by fans? Well, he probably can’t hit a baseball, he probably isn’t a big basketball player, and there’s not much Ice Hockey in Jamaica. He actually said that if his favorite soccer team, FC Barcelona offered him a contract, he would accept it right away, but the MLS, ehhh. The question with the NFL is, how would he fit in? What would his role be? That’s what I’ll be looking at today.
Running Back: Obviously, Bolt’s speed would be his main weapon in the backfield, but he has other favorable attributes for the position. He’s 6’5″, 190 lbs, and has bulging muscles. He’d be a power back, even while being pretty lean and tall, just because of the strength he has in his legs. The main con of putting Bolt or any new football player at running back is that it’s a very technical position. You have to know blocking schemes, what holes to hit, and you have to be very comfortable with the playbook.
Wide Receiver. A suitable choice for sprinters, multiple former Olympians have excelled as NFL pass catchers. Tommie Smith, well known for putting his shoe on his hand at the 1968 Summer Olympics, was a receiver for the AFL Cincinnati Bengals. “Bullet” Bob Hayes was a sprinter who went on to football success with the Cowboys, being one of football’s top receivers in the 1960s. Willie Gault, known for his time with the Chicago Bears as a receiver, was a gold medalist in the 1983 track and field World Championships in Helinski. Bolt would get an incredible burst off the line, opening up the short passing game, with DBs playing him very conservatively. Receiver may seem like the easiest position for a non-football player to be, but routes need to be run with such precision and caution that a guy who might not apply himself like Bolt might have trouble in the NFL.
Defensive Back. The least likely of any of the positions I have mentioned yet. Playing DB requires too much knowledge of the game that Bolt wouldn’t have and might never get. He would have the speed, but might not be able to tackle, or understand offensive schemes. Just seems like too advanced a position for a “newbie” to play.
Kick Returner. This is a position that would make a ton of sense. All he has to do is catch a kick, and follow his blockers, if he even needed them. He might be too strong and too fast for anyone to catch up with him and tackle him when he’s on his game. This position would make sense, but there is one, huge problem. Bolt could get the Hester treatment, where the other team kicks it out of bounds, but not just in certain situations. All situations. What a waste of a salary that would certainly be huge. This leads into the position that I think would a perfect fit for Bolt, or any top-class sprinter:
Punt/Kick Blocker. When you think about this, it’s the obvious choice. Let’s say your opponent is lining up for a punt, after their first drive, which was unsuccessful. The punt block team lines up, and the punt goes off, lands inside the 10 yard line. Your team has very little chance to generate a touchdown drive with that type of field position, and a block would have been huge. Enter world-class sprinter. Jumps off the line of scrimmage, jumps in front of the punter, ball rolls, a 4th-string linebacker picks it up, and takes it in for a TD. 6-0, and the game has barely started. How great would that be, if you had one guy who could consistently block punts or late-game field goals, and give your team an extra few wins a year. Could be the key to a Super Bowl and a revolutionary concept.
So, it’s something to mull over. How would a guy like Bolt fit in with other top-class athletes in the 2nd biggest sports league in the world? (English Premier League makes more money) Would he even want to play football? I would love for a team to sign him to a huge deal for one year, then see what they do with him. I can dream, can’t I?
I’ll be in England the next two weeks, but still try to get some stuff up. An interview with TE Edgar Jones will be posted in a few days, and some news: We’re adding another blogger to the site, more details on him later.
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