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Speed in context: How fast are the Atkinsons?

Atkinson Jackson track

With their performances in the 100m over the weekend proof that George and Josh Atkinson are fast, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the question, “How fast are they?” The answer, as it turns out, is really, really fast.

From a Notre Dame perspective, the brothers Atkinson are historically fast. Since Irish Track & Field have been running the 100-meter dash, only one person has ever run a faster time than the sprints both brothers recorded: Raghib Ismail.*

That’s 5-foot-10, 175-pound, two-time first-team All-American, Rocket Ismail, who clocked a personal best 10.34 100m dash in a meet his junior year. One of the most explosive kick returners and wide receivers in Notre Dame (you can argue college football) history, clocking a time that’s only a blink of an eye faster than George or Josh. Two freshman that literally didn’t practice before picking up the outdoor season in progress, instead focusing on spring drills with the football team.

The US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association tracks the best times run by college football players in the country, and the Atkinson brothers clock in with the 5th and 6th fastest times in the country.

Top 100m Times for College Football Players

Jeff Demps, Sr. Florida -- 10.01
Brent Lee, Jr. Jackson State -- 10.25
Marquise Goodwin, Jr. Texas -- 10.32
Isaiah Sweeney, Sr. Houston -- 10.35
George Atkinson III, Fr. Notre Dame -- 10.36
Josh Atkinson, Fr. Notre Dame -- 10.39
Jeremy Tillman, Sr. Florida A&M -- 10.39

To help put the speed into context, here are the heights, weights, and positions of the sprinters listed above.

Jeff Demps, RB: 5-foot-7, 190 lbs.
Brent Lee, RB: 5-foot-7, 185 lbs.
Isaiah Sweeney, WR: 5-foot-10, 175 lbs.
George Atkinson, RB: 6-foot-1, 215 lbs.
Josh Atkinson, CB: 5-foot-11, 185 lbs.
Jeremy Tillman, WR: 5-foot-11, 185 lbs.

It’s pretty clear that George (and to a certain extent, Josh as well) is an outlier in this group, with his powerful frame and size far from an asset in the sprint world. (He’s carrying at least 25 pounds more than the next guy.) Also working against the twins is the fact that they’re freshmen, still physically developing and learning the intricacies of collegiate sprinting. (There are only two other freshmen in the top 25 sprint times by college football players. Thurgood Dennis, a D-III reserve DB chipped in four tackles on defense while returning 13 kickoffs while focusing on track. Angelo Cabrera is a redshirt freshman that carried the ball only six times for 18 yards at Bethune-Cookman.)

With George and Josh both likely playing impact roles on the gridiron next season, we’ll likely never get a real read on what their track ceilings could be. But it’s rather astonishing to think that after 15 spring practices, and basically zero block work (one of the keys to running fast times in competition), both brothers went out and ran historic times, waking up the echoes of The Rocket, and dusting every other Irish football great in their first year sprinting.

*The top sprinter in Notre Dame history, All-American Bill Hurd, competed in the 100 yard dash. His 9.3 time would translate to a 10.2 100 meter run.