Track’s loss is Kansas City’s gain

When Tyreek Hill was in high school, he was already a world class sprinter. However, Hill eschewed a track career for football, and has since become a vital component of Kansas City's high-octane passing game.



August 4, 2021 - 7:50 AM

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) runs for yardage against the Denver Broncos in their Dec. 6 game at Arrowhead Stadium. Photo by Jill Toyoshiba / The Kansas City Star / TNS

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — As a high school senior in 2012, Tyreek Hill zoomed out the 200-meter dash in 20.14 seconds — a time that would have been good for sixth in the 2012 London Olympics and stood just .01 behind Roy Martin’s national high school record.

His is what might be termed a blinding speed in more ways than one, particularly in the sense that it still tends to obscure the broader spectrum of uncanny skills that makes him one of the elite receivers in the NFL. And we’ll come back to that.

But if things had unfolded differently, track could have emerged as his best sport or the one he chose. And then you might have seen him competing over the next few days in the Tokyo Games instead of becoming a virtually indispensable part of what makes the Chiefs a leading contender for a third straight Super Bowl appearance.

For that matter, he has considered seeking an Olympic berth over the years, he said Friday at training camp, reiterating a hope he expressed to the media just before Super Bowl LIV. But he has determined the vague notion isn’t as important as trying to spend time with family in the offseason.

Even without certified Olympic stature, though, perhaps the fastest man in the NFL radiates the same sort of amusing swagger and bluster about his speed that we’ve come to expect from Olympic sprinters.

A typical example was delivered on Friday, when it was suggested that defensive back L’Jarius Sneed “kind of kept up” with him on one play.

Before the question even was completed, Hill’s face twisted up and maybe his head tilted a little and he said “hold on” repeatedly rapid-fire some six, seven or eight times.

Playful as he might be about it, his speed clearly is a point of profound pride. And that’s what animates his revived mock-feud with Usain Bolt, the eight-time Olympic gold medalist who retired in 2017 but retains the 100- and 200-meter world records.

The two met in 2019 for a series of various speed challenges (along the lines of who could send out a tweet or blow up a balloon faster). And evidently it was around that time when Hill started trying to cajole Bolt into a race.

Or, as Bolt put it Thursday on “The Pat McAfee Show:” Hill “was talking, ‘blah, blah, blah.’ But, then I went to the (NFL) combine one year, and if you go on the ‘net right now, I ran 4.22 in my sweats and some street shoes.

“I was like, ‘Come on, Tyreek Hill. You got no chance!’ “

To which Hill responded on Twitter, “line up then stop hiding” … punctuated with the so-called “woozy face” emoji apparently to convey bewilderment.

And Hill had more to say when asked about Bolt Friday.

“I’m going to tell you like this, man: Usain Bolt got out of the game for a reason, all right,” he said. “He’s old. He’s washed up, and he can’t see me at 40 yards. 100-yard dash, yes, that’s what he does: 40-yard dash … (he) cannot see me.”

Hill has seen that his own speed is something special for a long, long time now. Asked in 2016 when he became conscious of that special gear at his disposal, the Georgia native said he was about 6 years old.