Imagine walking down the street, and someone asks, "What sports are similar?" Your initial answer may be field hockey and hockey (which makes sense in name and how both sports are designed). What if I said football and track and field are closely related sports (like cousins)?
Here are three key reasons football and track and field are similar. First, both require knowledge in some aspects. Second, both have a speed necessity. Third, athletes' movements in football and track and field are very similar.
Both football and track and field have a scouting aspect (although you could say this about a sport like basketball, it’s more prevalent in track and football). During the Football season, teams are scouting for the best talent and the game plan for their opponent that week.
It’s similar for track and field; track athletes go on websites like Milesplit to look at their opponents' time/distance and how the teams they are running/jumping/throwing so those athletes know roughly what to expect during their meet. (there could be surprises; it’s track and field; anything can happen).
Something widespread for both sports and sports, in general, is that athletes look up and use YouTube to watch a specific part of their sport. For example, if you are trying to become a cornerback, you might look up techniques or the footwork of some of the best in the NFL. For Track and Field, if you do the long jump, you might look up videos on getting height once you hit your board (which is your take-off point). Both require a great deal of knowledge regarding their respective sports.
The Need for Speed
Football and track and field require a great deal of speed. Whether route running or the 100-meter dash, both mandate a quick start and speed consistency throughout that task. For example, the breakdown film of Davante Adams' route-running and Italy’s Marcell Jacobs running the 100-meter dash.
At one point, both Athletes have an identical running form with opposite hands and feet in almost a pawing motion (like in the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons).
The movements of track athletes and football players are very similar. For example, if you look at a track event with hurdles. There is a method hurdlers use to overcome hurdles that are simpler than how NFL players hurdle (if done right). That method is called the three-step (exactly what it sounds like). You take three steps, then jump over the hurdle, although it’s more complicated than that. In hurdling, there’s also the trail leg (the leg behind the front or the lead leg).
In particular, if we look at a picture of someone going over the hurdle with their trail leg and Brandon Ayiuk’s hurdle during the 2020 season versus the Philadelphia Eagles, both are very similar, if not identically.
photo credit: https://www.britannica.com/sports/hurdling
You could call that cherry-picking if it was just once, but in the 2015 season, Demarco Murray hurdled a former teammate while he was on the Eagles in a week 2 match-up versus the Cowboys. You can see he has his leg out to the side like he’s three-stepping a hurdle (but, instead of the hurdle, it’s a human).
This is why several NFL players formally ran track in high school or at the colligate level. A study done in 2019 showed that over 60% of the Players participated in high school track and field. The most famous player that did track and football is Marquis Goodwin.