DK Metcalf finished dead last in his 100-meter heat at the USA Track and Field Golden Games on Sunday afternoon.
But in his first foray into professional sprinting, the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver nevertheless held his own.
After lining up alongside Olympic hopefuls and seasoned pros, Metcalf ran the 100-meter dash in 10.37 seconds on Sunday, finishing 15th out of the 18 competitors in the preliminary heats and 0.41 seconds behind the eventual winner, Cravon Gillespie.
Metcalf, 23, did not run fast enough to secure a spot in Sunday’s finals. But he still turned in an impressive time for a 6-foot-4, 235-pound NFL player who hadn’t competed at a track meet since high school and was running what he described as his first 100-meter race.
“Personally, it was a good experience,” Metcalf said in a news conference after the race. “Anybody else who has a different opinion, you’re entitled to your own opinion. But I think I did well for myself.”
A Mississippi native who played college football at Ole Miss, Metcalf’s speed raised eyebrows when he ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in a stunning 4.33 seconds. Then, last season, his viral chasedown tackle of Arizona’s Budda Baker prompted an exchange on social media with USA Track and Field.
“For everyone asking if we have a spot open on our relay team for (Metcalf), NFL players are welcome to come test their speed against real speed next year at the Olympic Trials,” USATF wrote in a tweet.
“See you there,” Metcalf replied.
The Pro Bowl wide receiver said Sunday that he started training on the track about two or three months ago, following the end of the NFL season.
When asked about what prompted him to want to line up against a group of professional sprinters, Metcalf replied: “Why not?”
“Just another way to test my body, to test myself against different athletes, besides just doing football training all day,” he said.
In the days leading up to Sunday, U.S. track athletes said they respected and welcomed Metcalf’s decision to compete, but they were also excited to show NFL fans and casual onlookers that there’s a significant difference between NFL speed and track speed.
And by day’s end, as one of the league’s fastest players finished ninth in a field of nine, that gap was evident.
Metcalf praised his fellow competitors Sunday as “world-class” and said his decision to give track a try had nothing to do with a lack of respect or appreciation.
“Just because I was out here doesn’t mean I disrespect any other athlete or sport,” he said. “I just respect myself and what I can do.”
Metcalf is hardly the first athlete to compete at the highest level of both sports.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Marquise Goodwin has competed in sprint events and qualified for the 2012 London Olympics in long jump. Former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best ran the 100-meter dash for his father’s home county, Saint Lucia, at the 2016 Rio Games. And Renaldo Nehemiah was a world-class hurdler before he spent three seasons as a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers in the early 1980s.
Metcalf said he started training for Sunday’s race with the goal of qualifying for this summer’s Olympic Trials. He would have needed to finish the race in 10.05 seconds or better to earn an automatic berth at Trials, which will be held in Eugene, Oregon.
When asked if he planned to compete on the track again later this summer, Metcalf said he would talk it over with his trainers, coaches and family. But as for what’s next – well, he does have another career to maintain.
“Get back to football,” he said with a grin. “It’s time for mini-camp.”
Rounding into form
With the Olympic Trials now less than six weeks away, some of U.S. track and field’s brightest stars are starting to focus on their primary events and inch toward peak form.
Noah Lyles, the reigning world champion at 200 meters, was one of several Olympic favorites who made their season debuts in their main events at the USATF Golden Games on Sunday. After competing in the 100-meter dash at a meet last month, Lyles ran the 200 and surged past Kenny Bednarek to win with a time of 19.90 seconds.
“I was coming in here with some pretty low expectations,” Lyles said. “To be honest, I (exceeded) all of them. I felt very proud of what I did today.”
Rai Benjamin, who is one of the favorites in the 400-meter hurdles, also debuted in that event Sunday and set a new record at Hilmer Lodge Stadium with a time of 47.13. It’s the fastest time in that event so far this year.
Elsewhere, nine-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix ran the 200-meter dash outdoors for the first time this season and finished second with a time of 22.26 seconds.
Richardson a name to watch
Sha’Carri Richardson turned heads last month when the 21-year-old ran the 100-meter dash in 10.72 seconds – the sixth-fastest time ever. And she proved Sunday that such a performance is hardly a fluke.
Richardson, who won an individual national championship at LSU before turning pro, clocked in at 10.74 in her first heat Sunday, then won the final by running a 10.77 into a strong headwind. She looks poised to join Marion Jones, Carmelita Jeter and Florence Griffith-Joyner as the only American women to run a sub-10.7 time at 100 meters.