Talladega Nights’ eponymous character Ricky Bobby was many things: A simpleton, a boorish oaf, a son seeking long-lost paternal affection, and a human treasure trove of one-liners. But what defined him the most was a passion to go fast. “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed,” quips Will Ferrell’s Bobby, without a hint of irony, at one point in the 2006 comedy. The main tagline of the film “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” rings true.
Bobby’s main life mission similarly defines some of pro football’s best active speed demons, as they can finally prove, once and for all, who the fastest player in the NFL is. Never mind the obvious parallels of
unnecessary machismo bragging rights—this question deserves an answer everyone has been kind of (?) waiting for. A question where a pair of Bears get the chance to provide their own valuable input as their legs and natural gifts should allow them.
On Saturday June 29, the Bears’ Tarik Cohen and John Franklin III will be present among a gaggle of other football blazers in the inaugural 40 Yards of Gold all-star speed competition. There, Cohen, Franklin III, and counterparts such as the Saints’ Alvin Kamara, Titans’ Kevin Byard, and Cardinals’ Budda Baker will race head-to-head to ultimately determine football’s “King of Speed”. To conclude the night, the eventual Champion of the Offensive Division will face off against the Champion of the Defensive Vision and offer an
anticlimactic ending to the proceedings.
Franklin III, he of a 4.32 40-yard dash run in 2018, is the betting favorite to win at +550 (11/2 odds) according to BookMaker. Cohen, the Bears’ main offensive game-breaker, settles in at +1200 (12/1 odds).
The full list of participants is as follows:
OFFENSE: Ted Ginn Jr., Jeff Badet, Corey Coleman, Tarik Cohen, Robby Anderson, Richie James, Damiere Byrd, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Kevin Snead, Christian Blake, Jacoby Ford, Mystery Participant
DEFENSE: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trae Waynes, John Franklin III, Kevin Byard, Quinton Dunbar, Rashard Robinson, Terrell Sinkfield, Jerome Baker, Jalen Myrick, Budda Baker, Donte Jackson, Charles James II, Mystery Participant
The aim of this contest is to provide a somewhat objective authority for the fastest player in the NFL and set a bar of (supposed) friendly competition for football’s continually growing freakish athletes. There have been previous humorous occasions testing speed merits of NFL players such as former Bengals receiver Chad Johnson racing a horse in 2007, and Bears returner great Devin Hester besting a cheetah in 2013 in a National Geographic documentary.
But never ever has there been a trial between two football human racers: A compelling and tense one-track sprint everyone clearly needed.
Knowing a player like Cohen, in the event he should win the competition, there won’t be much of any love lost on social media platforms. None of the other racers will hear the end of the boisterous Cohen letting them have it. He’ll be first, and everyone that isn’t first will assuredly be last. Should the more quiet Franklin III win it, it’ll offer the former Last Chance U star a needed profile boost to a hopeful budding career.
Beyond the wholesome fun involved, if this competition blows up into anything remotely profitable, audiences should look forward to the NFL barging in and somehow stretching it out into a two-week primetime event with a quarter of an individual race taking place each night. There is no such thing as over-saturation, no sir.
Amazing Race, Survivor, American Ninja Warrior—watch out.