Panthers tryout player Marvin Bracy might be 'fastest guy in the NFL'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Second-round draft pick Curtis Samuel gave the Carolina Panthers a sample of his raw speed late Friday afternoon when he pulled away from defenders down the right sideline.

First-round pick Christian McCaffrey, also known for his speed, was so impressed that he ran across the field to congratulate his new teammate.

Marvin Bracy?

Not blown away.

There’s speed, and then there’s world-class speed.

Nothing against Samuel and McCaffrey, but their times of 4.31 and 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine don’t compare to running the 100-meter dash in 9.98 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials.

Bracy did that, earning a spot on the 2016 Summer Olympic team.

“No disrespect to McCaffrey or Fred Ross or Curtis Samuel," Bracy said, including the undrafted free-agent signee from Mississippi State. “Those guys have the total package.

“But I feel like my speed is different. I feel like me in open space, there is nobody that can bring me down.’’

So Bracy would be the fastest member of the Panthers if they decided to sign the tryout player after a two-day rookie minicamp that ends today?

“I feel I probably would be the fastest guy in the NFL ... next to John Ross,’’ he said of the Cincinnati Bengals' first-round pick, who broke the combine 40 record with a time of 4.22 seconds. “That guy is pretty fast.’’

Bracy and the Panthers might be the perfect fit.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound track star is looking to get back into a game he left after his 2012 redshirt freshman year at Florida State; the Seminoles won the national championship the next season. The Panthers are looking to add speed to a team desperately in need of more after last season.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera didn’t hesitate when asked how Bracy got on the team’s radar.

“Anytime you run a sub-10-second 100, it’s pretty impressive,’’ he said with a smile.

The 9.98 wasn’t even a personal best for Bracy. He was clocked at 9.93 seconds in June 2015.

His only regret in track is that a groin injury prevented him from making the Olympic final for the 100 in Rio de Janeiro.

“It definitely was worth it,’’ Bracy said. “I got paid a nice chunk of change, was able to set up my family and do things for them that a lot of people couldn’t.’’

Bracy doesn’t regret leaving football, but would never forgive himself if he didn’t give it another try.

“I’ve been talking about this since the day I left,’’ he said. “The decision was emotion-based. ... It was a split-second decision. I’m like, ‘All right, I’m leaving.’

“I didn’t give myself ample time to really come to terms with what I was giving up versus what I was gaining.’’

So after coming to FSU as a highly decorated track star, why did Bracy leave despite considering himself more of a football player?

It began with being rushed back too quickly, in his opinion, from a hamstring injury he suffered during his first week of practice. Then a hamstring injury prevented him from doing his best in track, which led to what he called a disagreement with football coach Jimbo Fisher.

“They had me out running at 65 percent in two weeks ... and that kind of limited my game,’’ Bracy said. “Obviously, I’m a speed receiver. If I can’t be fast, well...

“Then I got on the track and tried to make a few things happen. Me and the track coach had some disagreements as well. I felt like I was disrespected a lot as an athlete, so I left.’’

It turned into a trip to the Olympics, the “worst-best’’ experience of his life. He loved Rio de Janeiro so much that he had the city's famous Christ the Redeemer statue tattooed on his shin.

What Bracy didn’t like was not being 100 percent.

So this spring he began working back toward football. He was told he ran the first of two 40s in 4.30 seconds at Florida State’s pro day.

“They never gave me a time on my second,’’ Bracy said. “I was OK with my first one. I was training for track and it’s not the same kind of running.

“Forty yards is only 36 meters. That’s the beginning of a race in the 100 meters.’’

Whether this is the beginning of a return to football depends largely on how well Bracy does Saturday. He wasn’t so impressive that Rivera said signing him was a no-brainer, as others have appeared in past years.

What Bracy has going for him is speed.

No offense to McCaffrey or Samuel.