From the NFL to the 100m at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games: analysis of DK Metcalf’s ambitious project


It’s a common fantasy. We see a football or rugby player crossing the field at high speed, then we imagine him confronting the best athletes in the world over 100m. So if it’s Cristiano Ronaldo or Kylian Mbappé: banco! Fanciful calculations and montages can flood the internet. The reciprocal defends itself well. Usain Bolt and his claimed passion for football are proof of this. La Foudre also made the famous leap at the end of its glorious career, without success. This weekend, another athlete took the leap from fantasy to reality, with more ambition: DK Metcalf.

The wide receiver of the Seahawks has been a benchmark in the NFL, in terms of speed, since his draft in 2019. Last October, he put in an impressive defensive action, saving his team from a touchdown after an interception. His race had created a buzz. To the point of arousing a call from the foot of the national athletics federation of the United States, on Twitter. « We’ll see each other there« Metcalf replied, referring to a potential participation in the Trials (Olympic selections in the US). Since then, the punchline became a project, and the American footballer put on pointe shoes Sunday in Walnut, Calif.

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Result: a ninth and last place on the straight line, but in the more than respectable time of 10.37 (+ 1.0m / s). The bulky Metcalf (1.93m for 104 kg) still has work to do if he wants to participate in the Trials in Eugene in a little over a month (June 18-27). A time of 10.05 would give him a seat for the event. He can also hope to be without establishing such a performance, if he is among the 32 most successful sprinters in the country … But his first attempt only makes him the 84th fastest man in the United States in 2021, d ‘after NBC.

His plan does not seem credible, in the eyes of Stéphane Caristan: « See him qualify for the Tokyo Olympics (July 23 – August 8, 2021, Editor’s note) is impossible in my opinion (…) If he passes a lap at the Trials, already, it’s good« The 1986 European champion in the 110-meter hurdles is adamant: »[Metcalf] does not have a base speed high enough to qualify for Olympic selection this year. « Isn’t there even a glimmer of hope? »Perhaps, if there is ten meters of wind in the face … with its power, it will be able to compensate« , smiles the former French hurdler, now a trainer.

DK Metcalf settles in the starting blocks, before the first 100m of his athletic career – 05/09/2021, Walnut (California)

Credit: Getty Images

Not the prototype of the diamond to be polished

However, DK Metcalf is not the caricature of a sportsman whose speed would not be academic. « He runs well. He’s just running. He’s already a good technician« , greets our consultant who suspects a return to a love of yesteryear. The other side of the coin is that this relatively good technical mastery does not suggest a huge room for improvement. The Seahawks player (under contract until season 2022) is not a rough diamond, whose time of 10.37 would give hope for wonders. « He can win close to 15 hundredths, or even 2 tenths, by this summer« , considers all the same our consultant. But how?

Stéphane Caristan deciphers the race of this 23-year-old « beautiful beast »: « He’s explosive. But he straightens up too soon. He can still progress in his setting into action, he quickly puts down his first support, does not push much on his left leg… We can see that he lacks a bit of specificity. He is a little tense, but given his size, he is ‘not bad’ at the level of the rhythm. « Here is the cocktail of a correct start, which allows him to be in contact with Mike Rodgers (world finalist of the event in 2015, 2nd in 10.12 this Sunday) and co. It is then that »it gets complicated« …

« What marks me the most are his last 40 meters, where he draws, he extends to keep in contact« , continues Caristan, who adds: »His shoulders are a little high. « Our specialist therefore points to a crippling flaw in the face of such competition: »I think that he [Metcalf] reaches top speed sooner than others (…) but he does not hold it very long. We see that it is in this sector that the others make the difference. « However, he does not speak of collapse, or even of a great deterioration of the stride of the defector of the football fields us in tartan.

« It’s very different from speed in football »

« About 100 yards (91 meters Editor’s note), he must still make the difference (in his favorite sport), in my opinion, because American footballers who are less than 10.40 over 100 meters, there are not 30,000, assesses Stéphane Caristan. But facing real sprinters …« Metcalf bows, good player: »They are world class athletes. They do this for a living. It’s very different from speed in football (American) « He could see what separated him from the elite, but still thinks he has »good chances of (himself) to qualify« for the Trials.

For that, he will have to stay in the match beyond the halfway point. Stéphane Caristan details the different ways to work on his finish on the track: « We do strength endurance, specific speed exercises over longer distances, 120, 150 or even 200 meters. « Besides distance, intensity is a factor to play on: »We do races in quick-release-quickly (120 meters, in increments of 40 meters), gradual acceleration too, by breaking down the race, to try to keep technical availability, to be able to accelerate while the ‘we already have 80 meters in the legs.  »

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Too muscular?

There remains the question of its weight. To absorb the shocks in NFL, it is better to add a few grams to its natural body envelope. A problem in athletics? Cartistan first justifies the presence of impressive riders at the start of the 100 meters: « Lots of people ask me why sprinters have big arms and all that, but when they do a 50 meters with a 10 kg cart hooked up, without running at full speed … in the evening or the next day, they tell me: ‘I understand better’. The upper body, shoulders and arms, participate in motor skills and performance.  »

But after having exposed this observation, he admits that Metcalf is quite a specimen. « Proportionally, it is well balanced. He is not misshapen. Harry Aikines-Aryeetey or even Dwain Chambers were almost more drawn than him. But they’ve been training for years (to apprehend this body) and they seemed less massive. He is dense, he is wide (…) To pretend to go faster, it would have to lighten up.  »

Advice that Caristan would have given, also, to the sturdy Aikines-Aryeetey (32 years old, former hope of British athletics): « It’s almost a cartoon caricature. It is ten seconds in the 100 meters (record in 10.08 Editor’s note) and I find that his muscle mass is a handicap to go below 9.90. « DK Metcalf is not there yet. His challenge is immense: »It’s easier to go from sprinting to American football than the other way around (…) American football is the dream sport to exploit the qualities of a sprinter. « The converse remains to be proven.

The imposing Harry Aikines-Aryeetey in 2017

Credit: Getty Images

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