The ten fastest football players ever made a career out of leaving the opposing team in the dust. Not surprisingly, most of these players are running backs. However, these men have proven that there is plenty of speed to go around on both sides of the ball.
- Bo Jackson. To this day, Jackson holds the fastest time in the 40 yard dash ever recorded in the NFL combined. His career was cut short after a hip injury in 1991. But during his time on the field, he showed the world that he deserved to be mentioned among the fastest football players ever, compiling 2,782 yards and an incredible 16 touchdowns over four seasons, averaging an enviable 5.4 yards per carry.
- Joshua Cribbs. Cribbs’ explosive speed has helped turn him into not only one of the fastest football players ever, but one of the best kick return men in the league. He can run north-south at blazing speeds, but he can also cut east-west on a dime and leave his defenders in the dust.
- Chris Johnson. Johnson is the last running back to amass more than 2,000 rushing yards in a season. The amazing thing about Johnson’s accomplishment is that it came during the Tennessee Titans’ worst start, going 0-6 until the bye and getting outscored 198-84. Despite his team’s woeful play, Johnson’s speed and athletic ability got the job done and proved him to be one of the fastest football players ever.
- Randy Moss. Back when Moss was with the Minnesota Vikings, there was no one faster on the field save for perhaps Jerry Rice (who was coming out of his prime). Moss had hands that rarely let him drop a pass, and he had the feet to put him ahead of his defenders. While his temperament and opportunities with the Vikings prevented him from making good on his potential, he’s nonetheless one of the fastest football players ever.
- Deion Sanders. “Primetime” Sanders epitomized the term “shutdown corner.” His incredible speed allowed him to turn seemingly routine plays into exhibitions of his skill and athleticism. He was one of the most feared corners of his day for his ability to position himself anywhere he wanted around receivers and create opportunities to intercept passes.
- Eric Dickerson. When you break out during your rookie year with 1,808 yards and 18 TDs, you’re off to a promising career. But one season does not a great career make, so Dickerson put himself into overdrive and managed 2,105 yards his sophomore season. Dickerson was so fast, he’d go on to stack seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with over 80 touchdowns during that span, becoming only the seventh running back to gain more than 10,000 yards.
- Marshall Faulk. His St. Louis Rams’ teammates often credit Faulk for being the engine behind the “Greatest Show on Turf” during the franchise’s 1999-2001 seasons. Faulk’s ability to burst through open holes and shake off pursuers allowed him to grab over both 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in his inaugural year with the Rams in 1999, also the year they won the Super Bowl.
- Jerry Rice. His recorded time in the 40 was never very impressive, but when Jerry Rice stepped on the field, there were few who were faster. Rice constructed a personal regiment that turned him into the fastest football player of his prime. His many receiving records back this up.
- Barry Sanders. One of the most enjoyable backs to watch, Sanders was also one of the fastest. His swiftness allowed him to elude defenders like no other back in the league. He retired abruptly in 1999, but not before attaining some amazing milestones, including 1,000 yards or more each of his ten seasons and a 2,053-yard season in 1997-1998.
- Walter Payton. Nicknamed “Sweetness” for his grace and poise while running, Walter Payton topped the record books during his career thanks to his fast legs and excellent sidestepping ability. Payton played for 11 seasons before finally making it to the Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears, who beat the New England Patriots 46-10. He might not have taken home MVP honors that night, but he remains one of the best running backs and fastest football players ever.
What Others Are Reading Right Now.
Acting, comedy and strong spirits converge in Speakeasy. When host Paul F. Tompkins interviews entertainers—Key and Peele, Alison Brie, Rob Delaney, Zach Galifianakis—about all sor …
25 Enlightening Quotes About Being a Gentleman
What’s your definition of a perfect gent? LL Cool J, Lea Michele, Andy Samberg and friends weigh in.