Whenever you hear about scientists “breaking” the light barrier in physics, it always turns out to be a kind of cheat involving invisible cute entanglements between particles, not actual transfer of matter, or super-ephemeral “four-wave mixing” that’s really more a trick of addition than any violation of relativistic spacetime, or the “evanescent modes” of quantum tunneling—when experimenters are able to move photons instantaneously beyond a certain length of barrier or prism, which is really more like teleportation or time travel than faster-than-light motion. That would still be very cool if it had any application for classical mechanics, but doesn’t apply to particles with mass or anything on our complex molecular scale like humans or spaceships.
So Cyril Grayson, the former LSU track star who the Seattle Seahawks signed Monday after he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at Louisiana State’s pro day, is not faster actually than light—or even John Ross. But Grayson is very fast, and the way the Seahawks managed to circumvent the NFL Draft to sign him immediately (following due diligence by Grayson’s father), rather than waiting for their chance in the draft or as a post-draft free agent, is somewhat analogous to quantum tunneling beyond the usual barriers of amateur player acquisition in pro football.
This cool story by Ross Dellenger in the Baton Rouge Advocate details how it went down from Grayson’s end, including how constant attention and a sudden tour of the VMAC tipped the scales to Seattle when other teams matched the offer, and mentions Grayson “was eligible to sign immediately and skip the draft because he's a fifth-year senior and did not play football.” This is a fascinating loophole that I’m surprised to learn exists: After all, we’ve seen players drafted into sports they haven’t played since youth or preps days, like when Michael Vick was selected by the Colorado Rockies in 2000, and prospects who went to the NFL without playing a down in college yet still underwent the draft process, like Eric Swann in 1991 or even German Moritz Boehringer last year.
So credit John Schneider’s staff both for having Grayson on their radars and for understanding the draft eligibility rules precisely enough to notice they had a chance to sign him directly. Surely other pro teams are sophisticated enough to realize the parameters of their jobs but, as Dellenger’s article tells, only the Seahawks seemed to have enough heads up about Grayson as a prospect to take full advantage of the situation.
Too bad there's no Cyril Grayson tape :/— Coleman Crawford (@Coleman3SD) April 11, 2017
There’s also no downside to signing the sprinter to a non-guaranteed rookie minimum deal. Grayson is two inches shorter than Ross, for example, and comes with inferior vertical and broad jump numbers (34.5 inches and 10 feet 7 inches, respectively)—but Ross is a first-round prospect and Grayson’s measurables are clearly competitive with other athletes given draftable grades. According to John Boyle, despite not playing organized football since high school, Grayson at his pro day “displayed hands and route-running ability that showed he is more than just a speedster.”
It’s not scouting tape (or recent), but here’s Grayson in high school, where he had 28 catches for 731 yards and eight touchdowns his senior year (and also blocked in the run game):
So Seattle either saved itself a late round draft pick or—at worst—managed to beat 31 other teams to the competition for a high-ceiling UDFA, the classic feeding ground for future Seahawks. There may or may not be a return for Beast Mode in the NFL next year, but with the right coaching and grit there might at least be a spot for Evanescent Mode. No? Anybody?
(nod to Alistair Corp)