NFL’s fastest players race Busch Gardens’ cheetahs
Busch Gardens’ cheetahs will be shown racing two of the NFL’s fastest players as part of Big Cat Week on Nat Geo WILD in a show called Man v. Cheetah, scheduled to air later this month on the cable channel.
Filmed at Busch Gardens in Tampa earlier this year, running back Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears’ wide receiver Devin Hester raced two of Busch Gardens’ fastest cheetahs, Jenna and Nave, in the park’s Cheetah Run habitat.
For the challenge, a walled enclosure was built in Busch Gardens’ cheetah habitat “so the athletes and the cheetahs could run side-by-side safely,” a news release said.
The show premieres Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. to kick off the fourth annual Big Cat Week for Nat Geo WILD, the network’s most-watched week.
Chris Johnson is considered the fastest player in the NFL — Sports Illustrated asked 316 NFL players for their choice for the fastest player in football and he came out No. 1. He has the fastest 40-yard dash time in NFL history at 4.24 seconds. Devin Hester, the Bears’ dangerous return man, holds the NFL record for most kicks and punts returned for touchdowns.
During the race, park guests watched as the cheetahs dashed across their 220-foot sprint path for the race. The NFL athletes ran two different exercises on the other side of the safety wall. Johnson’s challenge was based on shear speed and included a back-and-forth stretch on the sprint path. Hester’s challenge “highlighted his agility and required him and his cheetah competitor to run four lengths of the sprint, changing direction three times.”
The cheetahs Jenna and Nave can be seen daily at Busch Gardens’ exhibit near the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster. Both Jenna and Nave were born in 2010 in South Africa. They arrived at Busch Gardens in January 2011 with five other young female cheetahs. Both cheetahs have been clocked at reaching 62 mph while running on the 220-foot sprinting track in their habitat at Busch Gardens.