METAIRIE, La. -- Alvin Kamara knows he doesn’t have the same level of “elite speed” as a handful of former track stars playing in the NFL.
“I’m all right, though,” the New Orleans Saints running back quickly interjected.
And he decided that he is willing to go up against many of those guys in Saturday’s “40 Yards of Gold” 40-yard dash tournament in South Florida because there is a million-dollar first prize on the line.
“A lot of guys just like me are looking at that big prize and trying to take their shot,” Kamara said.
The motivation is slightly different for Kamara’s teammate, Saints receiver Ted Ginn Jr.
Sure, that million dollars is enticing. But Ginn also has a reputation to uphold.
The 34-year-old has been considered one of the NFL’s fastest players for more than a decade. And he is eager for the chance to prove it. So eager, in fact, that he boasted earlier this year on “The Lefkoe Show” podcast that he would be willing to race anyone for $10,000.
“When you think about speed and you come to the New Orleans Saints, you think about one guy,” said Ginn, who was a national champion in the 110-meter hurdles in high school and was a member of a 4x100-meter relay team his senior year that beat a team anchored by Usain Bolt.
“We all got our labels of who we are. So we all just try to go out and man up to 'em,” Ginn said.
Kamara and Ginn are among a host of NFL players slated to compete in the inaugural 40 Yards of Gold, an event not affiliated with the NFL.
Sixteen current and former players will compete in Saturday's 16-man, single-elimination tournament field; eight on offense and eight on defense. The winner of each division will face off in the final, with the title of fastest player at stake. The field includes:
Offense: Ginn, Kamara, Vikings WR Jeff Badet, Jets WR Robby Anderson, 49ers WR Richie James, free-agent WR Kevin Snead, former Raiders WR Jacoby Ford, 49ers receiver/Olympic long jumper Marquise Goodwin
Defense: Vikings CBs Trae Waynes and Jalen Myrick, Redskins CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Panthers CB Donte Jackson, Bears DB John Franklin III, Jets CB Rashard Robinson, free-agent CB Terrell Sinkfield, free-agent CB Charles James
Ginn, who will compete against Ford in the first round, said players have long debated things such as who is the NFL's fastest.
“A lot. A lot. It’s everything -- the fastest guy, the best running back, the best D-end, the best center,” Ginn said. “You’re in a league where everybody wants to be the best. So everybody feels like they are the guy. That’s what this league is all about.”
Now they’ll have some evidence to go by.
“They went to a majority of fast guys in the league and reached out to 'em, and it was up to you to buy in. And I bought in,” Ginn said. “Everything you try to do in life, you try to win. You try to be the best at all times.”
The race was created by Charles Stewart and Dr. Alijah Bradley, who have been dreaming of such an event since they began the 40 Yards of Gold organization in 2012.
All players involved will receive an appearance fee, as well as prizes for winning races in each round. They also will be insured in case of injury (a question Stewart said he has heard a lot). But Stewart pointed out that they won’t be jumping out of airplanes or off of motorcycles -- just running, which is a normal part of their training anyway and no different than preparing for the scouting combine.
The event will be hosted by Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Chris Johnson and DJ Irie, with a live performance by Rick Ross. And it will include high-tech graphics both at the event and on TV to give the illusion that players are running on futuristic platforms.
“We have to turn players away every day,” Stewart said. “A lot of them are already multimillionaires, so they don’t have to do this. But since it’s such an exciting competition -- and they really believe they’re the fastest players in the league -- they’re on board.”
Players will face each other head-to-head, which could allow for some upsets if one guy gets a better start out of the blocks.
That might be what Kamara is counting on, since his 40-yard dash time of 4.56 seconds at the scouting combine doesn’t quite measure up against guys such as Goodwin (4.27 seconds at the combine) or Ford and Myrick (both 4.28). Franklin and Sinkfield both reportedly posted times of 4.19 seconds in the past -- though neither was official. Kamara will face Anderson in the first round.
Ginn was nursing an injury at his scouting combine, but he has said in the past that his fastest 40 time was 4.22 seconds. He guessed that he would run about a 4.35 or 4.38 now -- but he still insists he has Kamara beat, just like Kamara would have him beat in a balance competition.
Kamara agreed on both fronts. He called Ginn a “legend” and the “OG” when it comes to speed. But Kamara isn’t afraid to boast about his “elite balance,” which he would put up against anyone in the league.
And in fact, Ginn is trying to learn some new tricks from Kamara. He began working out with Kamara’s trainer in South Florida while also giving up meat this offseason to try to keep evolving as a premier athlete.
“Just trying to take different precautions to stick in this league. Pay attention to the young guys around me, what’s keeping them afloat,” said Ginn, who said he always has trained like a track athlete and mostly avoided weightlifting.
“You just go with the flow,” Ginn said. “And I’m just happy I’m here to be able to go with the flow.”