Football takes its ball from rugby. Occasionally, it takes its players from the sport, too.
The Detroit Lions signed speedster Carlin Isles to its practice squad today. Isles is a member of the United States Sevens Rugby, which plays Scotland, Kenya, and other national teams in venues around the globe. He has been described as the fastest man in rugby, a sport he took up in 2012.
Should he find himself elevated from the practice squad to Detroit’s game-day roster, Isles may become the fastest man in football, too. The Lions clocked him at a 4.22 second 40-yard dash.
By way of comparison, the fastest 40-yard dash since the advent of electronic timing at the NFL combine in 2000 was run by Chris Johnson. The Tennessee Titans running back ran a 4.24 40 at the 2008 NFL combine. Prior to electronic timing, Bo Jackson ran a 4.12 40-yard dash.
The NFL features several players who have migrated from the pitch to the gridiron. The Indianapolis Colts feature Daniel Adongo, a Kenyan rugby player, at linebacker, and the New England Patriots special-teams standout Nate Ebner starred in rugby, and played on the football team, at Ohio State. Isles ran track and returned kicks at NCAA Division II Ashland University.
The Detroit Lions, whose 7-8 record leaves them out of the playoffs for the thirteenth time in the last fourteen seasons, hope to convert Isles into a wide receiver and kick returner.