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January 6, 2012
SAN ANTONIO - High school football players learn at the youngest of ages that their 40-yard dash time may be as important as anything else when it comes to earning a spot at the next level.
Because of it, it has become as big a part of their training as any on-the-field skill.
"I work on my 40 all year round," running back Berkley Edwards of Chelsea (Mich.) High said after taking a rep during the U.S. Army National Combine Friday.
"In the winter I work mostly always on my 40 and my technique," he said. "In the outdoor season, I work on the 100."
He's not the only one.
"It's just part of the process," defensive end Dajaun Drennon of Sicklerville (N.J.) Timber Creek said. "You have to do it to get recruited."
Forty times have grown in importance over the years.
Speed always has been a benefit in football. But when former coach Jimmy Johnson showed he valued speed as much (if not more) than size while being successful at the University of Miami and the Dallas Cowboys a generation ago, its value grew even more.
Nowadays a player's times in the 40 - as well as his scores in other combine drills such as the shuttle run, standing leap and bench press - seem to count as much as their performance in one-on-one drills.
Some players questioned why.
"It is frustrating that colleges will look at those measurable things and make early determinations," defensive lineman Nick Santa of Bellevue (Wash.) High said. "Those stats are a big part, I understand that, but being a well-rounded player and how you perform on the field, in the game, should matter more than straight line speed in getting to the next level."
Coaches will argue that stats and team statistics are nice - but that they don't give them an apples-to-apples comparison among players. Forty times can do that. After all, you can coach football but you can't teach speed.
Or can you?
Players know the proper training techniques can knock fractions off their times.
Is it enough? After all, as Santa says, there is only "so much speed" you can have.
"Having a 4.69 instead of a 4.71 doesn't mean you are a better football player," he said.
Of course, having a better 40 time can help you get a chance to show you may not otherwise have to show you are a better football player.
"I am not 6-foot-1, I'm like 5-8, so I have to have a great time," Edwards said. "People are going to look at my speed as my biggest weapon and if I don't have that then why would they want me?"
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