By Dan Wiederer Star Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS — There is video now where none previously existed. And because of that video there is also buzz, a bit of chatter and heightened curiosity.
Feel free to do the YouTube search for Terrell Sinkfield. That 20-second clip midway down the page was posted by Sinkfield himself. That’s the one with more than 367,000 page views.
Directly below that is another clip, offering the same footage from a better angle. That one is attributed to GopherSports.com.
Both videos show a kid with a dream leaving scorch marks on the turf of the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex. This is Sinkfield’s 40-yard dash from the University of Minnesota’s March 4 pro day.
One stopwatch reportedly clocked it at 4.19 seconds. Yep, 4.19.
And that time — never mind that it wasn’t official — registered as mind-boggling. So much so that Twitter had an immediate eruption and then major websites such as Yahoo! Sports and ESPN and NFL.com began writing about it and then Sinkfield’s cellphone began blowing up.
“Pretty quickly, it was all eyes on me,” he said. “That initial buzz spread like crazy.”
So who is this Terrell Sinkfield anyway? Well, that’s exactly the question he was hoping people would ask. NFL people, to be specific.
The answer: he’s a Football Championship Subdivision receiver from the University of Northern Iowa. He’s an enthusiastic 22-year-old with a smile, a shrug and a dream to hear his name called in the later rounds of this week’s NFL draft.
Chances of that happening are still slim. Sinkfield isn’t blind to that.
Senior season totals of 43 catches and 499 yards while playing in the Missouri Valley Conference don’t exactly forecast NFL success.
But with one sprint, Sinkfield at least blipped onto the radar.
To be clear, the official recorded times for Sinkfield’s 40s that day came in at 4.33, 4.36 and 4.38 seconds. Still, 4.19 is the number people haven’t stopped asking about.
“Will I claim 4.19? Sure,” Sinkfield said. “Why not? If somebody wants to put my name on that, I’ll take it. But I was shooting for fast. And I think whatever the exact number was, I proved that.
“I am fast.”
The desired ripple effect of proving that? That at least a few NFL scouts and front office people were intrigued enough to circle back, throw in tape of Sinkfield at Northern Iowa and see what they might have missed.
Sinkfield hopes they zero in and see, in his words, “that I’m not strictly a speed guy, that I can actually play some football.”
He hopes teams see he has decent size (6-1, 192 pounds) and is versatile enough to work in the slot or outside. He hopes they see a receiver who’s always playing hard and continues improving his route-running. Perhaps they’ll identify a guy with potential — on offense and special teams.
Sinkfield’s training for that pro day dash came under the expert guidance of Mark Ellis, who in 2004 and 2005 was the Vikings’ assistant strength and conditioning coach and later co-founded GameSpeed Sports Academy in Eden Prairie, Minn., with E.J. Henderson.
Sure, Sinkfield has been lifting, doing position drills and dedicating himself to his craft since his college career ended. But after teaming with Ellis, a quest to master the 40 became a top priority.
Ellis had studied a dozen or so of the fastest 40s ever run at the NFL combine and looked for technical similarities. He determined the best runs were completed in 20 to 22 steps and realized a jump-start seemed to be a major catalyst.
“Literally,” Sinkfield said. “We spent a lot of time working on my start, of fine-tuning a technique to actually jump out of the blocks and steal a step there.”
Without Ellis’ tutelage, Sinkfield still would have been fast. As his agent, Mitch Chargo, notes, “His speed is God-given and it’s world class.” But with Ellis, Sinkfield was able to squeeze every last hundredth of a second out of his 40.
Sinkfield laughs now at the hype that he generated.
He also had an impressive 40.5-inch vertical leap and a freakish 11-foot, 5-inch broad jump. Still, all anyone ever seems to talk about is the 40. Sinkfield knew that going in.
“We call it ‘The Money Maker,’” he said. “Honestly. That’s what it boils down to a lot. With everything else, the fastest guys usually get paid the most.”
So maybe just maybe, one blazing run will open a door.
Said Chargo: “The goal in January, plain and simple, was to get Terrell into a position where he could showcase what he’s got. That has happened. The devotion Terrell had to his future and his investment in himself has paid off. And with that 40 and with the Internet, it’s enabled him to show really the world what he’s got.”
Thursday through Saturday, Sinkfield will keep his cellphone on and his fingers crossed, hoping his name will be called during the draft. But even if it isn’t, he fully expects to spend the following weekend at the facility of some NFL team, as a rookie minicamp invitee.
Once there he’ll be trying, once again, to turn heads.