Of all the football players from Alabama’s high schools and colleges who’ve tried to reach the pros, which one ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the annual NFL Scouting Combine?
It nearly happened last year, but former Midfield High School and UAB standout J.J. Nelson held on to his state crown by 0.02 of a second.
The NFL Scouting Combine will be held next week in Indianapolis for the 34th straight year. The players arrive for testing and interviews in four groups and will be on the field from Feb. 27 through March 1.
Of the six measurable drills, the 40 is the marquee event. Records from the early combines can be sketchy, but complete data is available starting with the 2000 event. These are the top 10 40 times since that year by players with Alabama football roots:
1. J.J. Nelson, Midfield High School, UAB: 4.28 seconds
The wide receiver’s 2015 run is tied for the seventh-fastest at the combine. The Cardinals drafted Nelson in the fifth round, and he caught 81 passes for 1,439 yards (a 17.8-yard average) and 10 TDs in four seasons with Arizona. Nelson joined Oakland as a free agent last season, but hampered by ankle and knee injuries, he played in only two games for the Raiders before being released.
2. Jamel Dean, Auburn: 4.30 seconds
After Dean’s run at the 2019 combine, the Buccaneers drafted the cornerback in the second round. Dean hardly played with Tampa Bay’s defense in the first half of the season. But after starting five of the final six games, he finished tied for fourth in the NFL with 17 pass breakups.
3. Tim Carter, Auburn: 4.32 seconds
After Carter’s run at the 2002 combine, the Giants drafted the wide receiver in the second round. He played in seven NFL seasons with 81 receptions for 1,090 yards and four touchdowns.
3. Chad Jackson, Hoover High School: 4.32 seconds
After Jackson’s run at the 2006 combine, the Patriots drafted the Florida wide receiver in the second round. He suffered a torn ACL in the AFC championship game during his rookie season and played in only six more NFL games.
5. Jonathan Jones, Auburn: 4.33 seconds
After Jones’ run at the 2016 combine, the cornerback went undrafted. He caught on with the Patriots as a contributor on special teams. With each successive season, he’s been on the field for more defensive snaps and fewer special-teams plays. His biggest contributions on defense have come as a nickel back, but he’s also played safety, including in Super Bowl LIII, when he was New England’s leading tackler in its 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams to cap the 2018 season.
6. T.J. Green, Sylacauga High School: 4.34 seconds
After Green’s run at the 2016 combine, the Colts drafted the Clemson safety in the second round. He made four starts as a rookie and seven in 2017. In 2018, Green was released with an injury settlement by Indianapolis at the end of the preseason, signed with the Seahawks in October, stayed on the active roster for three games without getting on the field and ended the season on injured reserve with a hamstring problem. Green spent most of 2019 on the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad. After playing in one game, he was released, picked up by Carolina and played in the Panthers’ season finale.
6. Julio Jones, Foley High School, Alabama: 4.34 seconds
After Jones’ run with a broken bone in his foot at the 2011 combine, the Falcons traded five draft picks to the Browns for the No. 6 choice to draft the wide receiver. He’s gone on to be an All-Pro twice and a Pro Bowler seven times. Jones has caught 797 passes for 12,125 yards and 57 touchdowns. He has more receiving yards than any player in Atlanta history and more through the first nine seasons of his career than any player in NFL history.
6. Onterio McCalebb, Auburn: 4.34 seconds
After McCalebb’s run at the 2013 combine, the running back went undrafted. He had weighed in at 168 pounds. The Bengals picked him up with the intention of converting him to cornerback. In two seasons, McCalebb played in one game before Cincinnati tried him at wide receiver in 2015. He was released before that season started.
6. Ben Tate, Auburn: 4.34 seconds
After Tate’s run at the 2010 combine, the Texans drafted the running back in the second round. He suffered a broken ankle in his first preseason appearance and missed the 2010 season. Tate returned to spend three seasons as Arian Foster’s backup, and injuries to Foster gave him the opportunity to run for 942 yards in 2011 and 771 yards in 2013. After becoming a free agent, he played for the Browns, Vikings and Steelers and rushed for 390 yards in 2014, his final season.
10. Devin Aromashodu, Auburn: 4.35 seconds
After Aromashodu’s run at the 2006 combine, the Dolphins selected the wide receiver in the seventh round. Aromashodu caught 78 passes for 1,193 yards and five touchdowns in five seasons with three teams.
10. Tony Brown, Alabama: 4.35 seconds
After Brown’s run at the 2018 combine, the cornerback went undrafted. He signed with the Los Angeles Chargers but didn’t make the team coming out of the preseason. Brown landed with the Packers in the fourth week of the season and wound up playing 11 games. In his second NFL season, Brown played mainly on special teams before a heel injury limited his participation. Brown appeared in nine games but had missed four straight games when Green Bay waived him in the final week of the regular season. The Cleveland Browns claimed the cornerback for their offseason roster.
10. Lardarius Webb, Beauregard High School: 4.35 seconds
After Webb’s run at the 2009 combine, the Ravens selected the Nicholls State cornerback in the third round. Webb spent nine seasons in Baltimore, including six as a starter — five at cornerback and one at free safety. He intercepted 15 passes, averaged 9.3 yards on 59 punt returns and returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
What about Bo Jackson’s 4.12?
The combine concept started in 1982 and became a league-wide event in 1985. Almost half of the annual gatherings could be classified as prehistoric because of the lack of information compared to today’s categorized and accessible statistics that come out of Indianapolis. During the NFL Scouting Combine in 1986 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Auburn running back Bo Jackson recorded a 4.12-second 40. Or that’s what’s been reported. Jackson has said it didn’t happen, although he’s said he ran a 4.13-second 40 for NFL personnel at Auburn on his way to track practice.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.
Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe