Some of the fastest men in the NFL face off against the quickest cats in the animal kingdom during a cable TV special recorded in Tampa.
“Man v. Cheetah,” which airs tonight at 9 p.m. on Nat Geo Wild, shows Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Hester racing cheetahs at Busch Gardens.
The athletes visited the theme park in May, where a special enclosure was built at the Cheetah Run attraction to let them safely run side-by-side with cheetahs Jenna and Nave.
Johnson, one of the league's fastest players, and Hester, who holds the record for most kicks returned for touchdowns, participated in different challenges. Johnson's race was based only on speed and included a back-and-forth sprint. Hester's race tested his and his cheetah competitor's agility, requiring them to change direction three times.
Jenna and Nave arrived at Busch Gardens from South Africa in January 2011, along with five other young female cheetahs. Jenna loves attention and is often heard purring or chirping with excitement, Busch Gardens said in a news release. The park described Nave as an “easy going” cheetah that is very comfortable in new situations, which made her perfect for the race.
Both cheetahs have been clocked at reaching 62 mph while running on the 220-foot sprinting track in their habitat.
“Man v. Cheetah” kicks off Nat Geo Wild's fourth annual Big Cat Week, a week of programming dedicated to “nature's fiercest felines.”