'Fastest Human' Made Sudden Impact on NFL
The spotlight is coming to Canton, Ohio, as Enshrinement Week Powered by Johnson Controls kicks off the 2021 National Football League season. For the past several days, the sports spotlight shined brightly in Tokyo, as the Olympic torch burned at the Summer Games.
While football has never been part of the Games themselves, several athletes have played major roles in affecting Olympics history. One of those men is Pro Football Hall of Famer Bob Hayes, who competed the first time Tokyo hosted the Summer Games, in 1964.
His world-class speed earned him not only gold medals in both the 100-meter dash and 400-meter relay but also a nickname: “The World’s Fastest Human.” His ability to combine that speed with precise route-running and incredible ball-tracking skills would quickly earn him respect from defensive backs throughout the National Football League when he got home.
Hayes made a huge splash in the NFL as a rookie in 1965. In his second regular-season game, he gave Washington and the entire football world a glimpse of his incredible talent. He touched the football only twice that Sept. 26, 1965 game. Both times, however, he found the end zone. The first score came on a 45-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. He added a second touchdown on an 11-yard run, and Dallas won easily 27-7.
He finished his first pro season hauling in 46 passes for 1,003 yards and 12 TDs. Hayes’ speed changed the game.
“He probably did as much for our game as any one receiver in history because he changed the defensive concepts of the pro football passing game,” former Cowboys President and General Manager Tex Schramm said.
The following season, on Nov. 13, Dallas and Washington met again, and apparently the Washington defense forgot how lethal Hayes could be.
Hayes was especially electric that day as he recorded the finest game of his Hall of Fame career. He finished with a career-high 246 yards receiving on nine catches to become the first player that season with a 200-yard receiving game. Two long touchdown plays contributed to his yardage total.
Don Meredith hooked up with Hayes on a 52-yard touchdown play late in the second quarter to put Dallas ahead 14-6. The Cowboys took that lead into halftime.
After Washington stalled on three plays to open the second half, Hayes fielded a punt but was dropped for a loss. A clipping penalty moved Dallas back farther and forced Hayes and the Cowboys’ offense to start the drive from its own 5-yard-line. One play is all it took for Hayes to find the end zone. Meredith aired it out and Hayes quickly outdistanced the nearest Washington defender, hauled in the pass and was gone for a 95-yard touchdown and a 21-6 Dallas lead.
“I was supposed to go down and turn back,” Hayes commented about his 95-yarder. “When I got past the line, neither of the two defenders closed on me and there was a path in between. I just kept on going and hoped Don would read me.”
Washington would come roaring back after that play, but Dallas would hang on for the win, 31-30.
For Hayes, it marked not only his finest game as a pro but also established a Cowboys record for receiving yards in a game that stood for more than four decades. The 95-yard pass receiving touchdown play still stands as a club record.
“He tends to explode us into action,” Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry once said. “When we score with him, everything seems to explode after that, and there is no telling what will happen.”
Hayes’ performance was one of many more that followed during his career. He built a reputation for scoring long touchdowns. In fact, 19 of his 71 career touchdown receptions covered 50 yards or more. He also had an 86-yard touchdown catch in a 1967 playoff game against the Cleveland Browns.
Go back to all blog listings