Bob Hayes Dallas Cowboys & San Francisco 49ers
"Catching a game-winning touchdown is more of a thrill than winning gold medals. You play football for your team, not for yourself.”
When Bob Hayes arrived on the pro football scene in 1965, he had already earned athletic stardom having won a pair of gold medals in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. His medal-winning performance in the 100 meters competition earned him the title "World's Fastest Human." But for the Dallas Cowboys, the team that drafted him in the seventh round of the 1964 NFL Draft, the question lingered, "could a track man succeed in a contact sport like pro football?" The answer came quickly as the rookie's 46 receptions for 1,003 yards led all Cowboys receivers.
Hayes demonstrated time and again that he possessed tremendous football skills and instincts that helped him to develop into a terrific NFL wide receiver. Still, his world class speed was a major factor in his and the Cowboys offensive successes. "Bullet Bob" terrorized defensive backs and demanded the kind of deep double coverage rarely seen in the NFL at that time. It is often said that the bump and run defense was developed in an attempt to slow down the former Florida A&M running back.
"I know one thing, and I played with him," commented Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka, "he changed the game. He made defenses and defensive coordinators work hard to figure out what you had to do to stop him."
Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach knew firsthand the value of the speedy receiver. "He can explode and make things happen," he offered. "As long as Bobby is in the lineup the other team has to make adjustments it doesn't normally make."
St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson played against Hayes on a number of occasions. He observed that the difference between Hayes and other track men turned football players was that he had the ability to use his speed "in a football sense," rather than just trying to run fast as he could. "He had several speeds, all of them fast," explained Wilson. "But defensive backs had to figure out which one he was using and which one he was going to use."
Four times Hayes was named first- or second-team All-NFL. Three times he led the Cowboys in receptions, including back-to-back titles in 1965-66 when he caught a total of 110 passes for more than 2,200 yards and 25 touchdowns. For his 11-year career, Hayes accumulated 7,414 yards and 71 touchdowns. His 71 career touchdown receptions remain a Cowboys' club record.