Fastest 40 Yard Dash Time?

The shortest distance the IAAF recognizes for indoor world record performances is the 50 meters (approx 54 yards) run in 5.56 seconds set by Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey in 1996. The irony is he was considered a poor starter!

The current world record for 60 meters is 6.39 seconds set twice by American Maurice Greene in 1998 and 2001.

Canadian Ben Johnson broke the WR in the 50 yard dash in a time of 5.15 seconds in January 1988.

The Fastest 40 Yard Dash?

It was reported Ben Johnson splits in his ill-famous 9.79 100 meter race in Seoul was 4.38 seconds for 40 yards, 5.52 seconds for 50 meters, and 60 meters in 6.37. Both the 50m and 60m were under the current world records for those distances at the time.

At the 2001 World Championship 100m final in Edmonton, Maurice Greene covered 30m in 3.75 seconds and 40m in 4.64 seconds, extrapolating his 40 yard (36.576m) time at about 4.24 seconds.

These 2 times and races include reaction time, anywhere from 0.100 to 0.150 seconds.

There are several differences between a track 40 and a football 40 yard dash:

  • Surfaces. Comparing Mondo vs. Grass vs. Astroturf; football cleats vs. spikes.
  • We all know converting a hand time to FAT is 0.24 seconds.
  • As well, most football 40 yard dash don’t go on a starter’s pistol but on an athlete’s motion or breaking a beam (also dependent on the athlete). The average reaction time among elite sprinters from the gun to the moment they exert pressure on the starting block’s electronic pads is about .15 seconds, and anything less than 0.10 seconds is considered a false start. We all remember Lindford Christie’s false start in 1996 Olympics. The rule he “preached” because of Ben Johnson in 1988 was the same “rule” that got him DQ’ed in the Olympic final! The irony!

The fastest 40 yard I recall was the “4.17” by Deion Sanders. If that is a hand time, that makes 4.2 (rounded up) or 4.44 FAT (by adding 0.24 from hand to FAT).

Here’s a video of a 4.33 Reggie Bush 40 Yard Dash.

I still remember the 1990 NFL Draft when Blair Thomas, with a 4.4 40 yard dash, was picked second by the New York Jets, and Emmitt Smith ran a 4.7 and was picked 17th. We all know what Emmitt Smith did after College, right?

All I know is anything 4-mid or faster is fast. There’s a difference between a 4.5 and 5.5.

I wonder what Dwain Chambers could run?

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Bo was a rolling start for that time,because he was caught in a college game by Jerry Gray of Texas and dislocated his shoulder at that time. Never could have been caught if he ran that fast. Always loved the speed guys just to see if they could make it in the NFL. Athletes have gotten stronger and faster over these last 20 yrs than any other time in history. You never saw sub 4.4 times for FB players and now plenty of college guys come close to that mark. Remember that the 100m record was M. Greene’s 9.79 in 2000, and 9 years its .20 faster!!! That means UF RB Jeff Demps,who ran 10.01 in the Olympic trials as a HS senior, would be about 10 meters behind Bolt!! The fastest guy I ever heard that played NFL was Reynaldo Nehemiah, who held the 110m hurdle record and joined the 49ers. During workouts he ran a reported 4.29 in 1983 and was “just cruising ” to quote him. he claimed to have run a 4.24 in a track session. Scout said,”Yeah we timed a guy like that before.” Nehemiah then said “but I did it over hurdles!” Would have wanted see him vs Darrell Green in NFL fastest man showdown.

  • all of you r dumb. cj ran a 4.24 at tha combine. nun of these guys could touch him in tha 40. thats why people want him to race usain bolt. word.

  • Brillant comment jerky. Nobody said CJ wasnt fast,just talking about some other times over the years. CJ couldnt beat Walter Dix in HS and Dix has just been a sprinter since then while CJ played ball. Dix is the second fastest US sprinter, behind T. Gay, and he cant touch Bolt. Total mismatch

  • Bolt is by far the fastest human ever at 9.5 hundred meters, but as for the forty, the fastest I have ever seen was Rehnaldo Nehimiah said to have done a legit 4.24 (yes Deion and Bo had supposedly faster times–I know when RN played with SF he consistently beat good defensive backs by 10 yds on pass patterns, problem was only fair hands and could not take a hit well