A graphic for the 20th edition of Rich Eisen's "Run Rich Run." A graphic for the 20th edition of Rich Eisen’s “Run Rich Run.”

It’s been 20 years since NFL Network and The Rich Eisen Show host Rich Eisen started doing an annual televised 40-yard dash.  Since 2015, he’s been doing that to raise money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. And with the 20th edition of the dash, which aired on the network around the conclusion of their 2024 NFL Draft coverage, the total amount of money Eisen has raised for research into pediatric cancer and other life-threatening diseases has now topped $7 million.

To celebrate those milestones, a ton of people from the NFL and media worlds sent Eisen messages of support and congratulations around his 20th run (which took place on April 19, and aired on NFL Network Saturday).

Two images from Rich Eisen's 20th "Run Rich Run," taken on April 19, 2024.
Two images from Rich Eisen’s 20th “Run Rich Run,” taken on April 24, 2024. (Maddie Knight/AP Images for the NFL.)

Some of those congratulatory messages were featured in the NFLN segment on this, while others were spotlighted on the NFL Network Twitter feed. Here are a few of those videos, and a couple of quotes from each, starting with former NFL star turned soon-to-be-broadcaster Tom Brady:

“Obviously the most exciting part of the entire combine for me each spring is seeing you out there doing great things for St. Jude’s. Look, I laced them up lately, I improved my time, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t either.”

Here’s Brady’s former coach Bill Belichick, now also a broadcaster, and wearing a suit(!) and a “Don’t Give Up The Ship” tie.

“I dressed for the occasion and wore my tie here, ‘Don’t Give Up The Ship.’ That’s a good theme for what you’re doing. And I dressed maybe to run with you. It’s too bad I can’t be there to run and finish behind you. But congrats on the great support you’ve given; I have so much respect professionally and personally for you and for this cause.”

Here’s famed actor (and noted sports fan and sometimes broadcaster) Jon Hamm:

“I can’t believe you’ve done this for this long, mostly because I think one of the most disturbing things anyone can ever really see in the modern world is a full-grown man over the age of 50 sprinting everywhere. That’s just terrifying. I’m impressed at your commitment, but more so, I’m impressed at the wonderful giving back to charity that you’ve done over all these years.”

Here’s radio and TV host Dan Patrick, with “a tribute that will last as long as a 40-yard dash”:

“Rich, it’s unbelievable what you’ve done. We’re really proud of you and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

And here’s Coach Prime himself, Deion Sanders (a former NFLN colleague of Eisen’s), with some 40 advice and then some congratulations for Eisen continuing to do this:

“That’s one of the many reasons I love you, man, you keep on running. I got eight toes, I can still get you. But I’m proud of you. You keep on running.”

Indeed, Eisen has kept on running for 20 years now. And that’s even been surprising to him. In his 2008 book Total Access: A Journey to the Center of the NFL Universe (which featured a cover photo of him doing the dash), Eisen wrote how this started “just for you-know-whats and giggles.” And he told AA in 2016 that he had no expectation it would become an annual thing, especially as it almost went away early on:

“No! Good lord, no! To be honest with you, doing it in year two, three and four required some arm-twisting with NFL Network television management to provide a camera and keep it going. That actually is the truth, and I find it amazing with what the support is now. At the beginning, it was kind of like ‘Okay.’

The first time I did it, Terrell Davis laughed at me when I asked him, when we were bored in between shooting segments for Total Access in the RCA Dome stands, I asked him how fast I could run the 40. He laughed, and I went down and did it. Unbeknownst to me, one of the camera crew was on break, but he grabbed a camera and shot it, and I had no idea someone was in the truck recording it.

They surprised me with it that night and then started replaying it for all the talent evaluators who would come on the show, you know, Mike Holmgren, Joe Gibbs, we played it for them. It was a nice, funny thing. And then the second year, I show up and Mike Holmgren says “You’re going to run it again.” I thought to myself, “You know, I’ve got to give the people what they want, if the people are Mike Holmgren.”

The next year I did it again, and they started airing it on NFL Network more often, and then one year I blew my hamstring out doing it. That was the last year I ran it in actual dress shoes. So for the last five, some-odd years, I’ve been doing it in actual running shoes to make sure I’m not really hurting myself doing it on the turf.

It probably would have been over, because it’s kind of a one-note gag if you will, but what really breathed new life into it was the simulcam technology that the NFL Network developed, where suddenly you can overlay somebody’s 40-yard dash over somebody else’s 40-yard dash. Overlaying my 40-yard dash over the actual participants at the combine was really laugh-out-loud hilarious.

We’ve been doing that now for, I think, seven years, and it’s still funny every year, where you watch the guys who are faster than me run off the screen, or give me a five-yard head start on somebody who’s 325 pounds and watch that individual still beat me. Ezekiel Elliott this year gave me a four-yard head start and I actually left the screen and he comes out of nowhere and runs straight through me. It was like something out of Looney Tunes. It’s pretty funny. And thankfully there are a bunch of people who are interested, and the thankful thing about that is now it’s raising money for charity. So, I’m glad.

Yes, the charity component (which as Eisen discusses in that 2016 interview, came about thanks to then-NFLN employee Sarah Swanson, who now is the chief brand officer of Women’s Tennis Association Ventures) has been key to really keeping this important. And that’s a big part of why so many of these names chimed in to congratulate Eisen on his 20th run.

NFL Network’s Rich Eisen hosts Run Rich Run at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California on April 24, 2024. (Maddie Knight/AP Images for the NFL)
NFL figures help out kids doing the 40-yard dash at the 2024 Run Rich Run event to raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. (Maddie Knight/AP Images for the NFL).

There have been plenty of fun moments with this run, from analysts breaking it down to player compliments to Eisen even becoming a playable character in Madden Ultimate Team. But those charity numbers are truly remarkable, and they’ve grown dramatically over time; he raised around $125,000 in 2015, the first year of it being for charity, and the numbers have just shot up since then. And that’s made an impact on a lot of research for a great cause.

Kids take part in Rich Eisen's "Run Rich Run" event to promote St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. (Maddie Knight/AP Images for the NFL)
Kids take part in Rich Eisen’s 2024 Run Rich Run event to promote St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. (Maddie Knight/AP Images for the NFL.)

[NFL Network]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.