Caribbean Fever - Your ONLY destination to all things Caribbean and more
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester went toe-to-paw with cheetahs Jenna and Nave
Ever wondered if a super-fast football player could outrun a cheetah?
NatGeo Wild has turned this hypothetical question into a one-hour documentary called Man v Cheetah, which premieres tonight at 9pm as part of the network’s Big Cat Week.
The wild battle of speed and endurance was staged several months ago at Busch Gardens Tampa in Florida, pitting two of America’s fastest NFL players against a pair of cheetahs.
Scroll down for video
Wild race: Chicago Bears Devin Hester races a cheetah during a scientific matchup between nature's fastest land mammal and the super-agile wide receiver and kick returner in the Big Cat Week special Man Vs. Cheetah
Who's faster? Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson goes toe-to-paw against a cheetah on a 220-foot-long course at Busch Gardens Tampa
Grand unveiling: The one-hour documentary called Man v Cheetah, which was shot back in May, premieres tonight at 9pm
Jenny Apostol, the executive producer of the program, told Tampa Bay Times she and her team 'had no idea what was going to happen' when they invited Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester to go head-to-head with the fastest land mammals on earth.
On paper, the bipedal runners appear to be at a clear disadvantage compared to the lightning-fast big cats that can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds.
In the past, Johnson and Hester have clocked 4.24 seconds and 4.4 seconds, respectively, in the 40-yard dash, while cheetahs Jenna and Nave have reached speeds of 62 mph.
For comparison, Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, widely regarded as the fastest person ever, set a world record in 2009 by clocking 9.58-seconds in the 100-meter dash - more than 27 mph.
PLACE CURSOR OVER PIC BELOW TO PLAY VIDEO
Record times: In the past, Hester (left) has clocked at 4.4 second in the 40-yard dash, while Johnson (right) has posted 4.24 seconds
For the epic race held in May, NatGeo constructed a 220-foot-long course at Busch Gardens’ Cheetah Run with a 10-foot-tall barrier wall separating the human runners from their feline counterparts, Jenna and Nave.
Need for speed: Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, regarded as the fastest person ever, set a world record in 2009 by clocking 9.58-seconds in the 100-meter dash - but a cheetah would've beat him by 3.5 seconds
Hester and Johnson could not see their furry foes but ran simultaneously in one-on-one heats.
Johnson told USA Today that when he was approached by NatGeo with the idea to race a cheetah, he did not hesitate.
The doubts came later when the 191-pound running back arrived at the track and found out that the show's producers had to build a higher barrier because one of the cheetah had leaped over the first one.
Hester said during filming that in a worst-case scenario, he was hoping to outrun his four-legged rival.
Some 20 video cameras were installed along the track to capture the action from every angle.
The filming was unscripted and shot in a single take so as not to exhaust the animals, according to the show's producer.
To give the NFL players a fair shot, NatGeo set up the races in such a way that the runners had to sprint back and forth and rapidly change directions - something that may be tricky for an animal, RedEye Chicago reported.
Busch Gardens Tampa has a total of five cheetahs in its collection. Their handlers exercise the critters every day by making them chase a lure on a pulley to keep them fit and healthy.
Jenna and Nave were born in 2010 in De Wildt, South Africa, and came to Busch Gardens in 2011. Jenna weighs 90lbs, while Nave tips the scales at 85lbs
Menagerie: Busch Gardens' Cheetah Run in Tampa has a total of 5 big cats, among them the two racers - Jenna and Nave
Incomparable runners: The lightning-fast big cats can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds - but quick direction changes could pose a problem