Once upon a time, the world’s fastest human played for the Dallas Cowboys. He was as accomplished on the track as he was on the football field, setting records wherever he went. Bob Hayes was so fast that his nickname was “Bullet” – as in “Faster than a speeding… He proved to be a winner in both sports. To this day, Hayes remains the only person to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring.
Here are 10 Did-You-Know facts about Bob Hayes, football’s first true speed demon.
♦ Hayes was born on Dec. 20, 1942 in Jacksonville, Florida. He was a backup running back at Matthew Gilbert H.S., where the Panthers went a perfect 12-0 in the 1958 season. That occurred during times of racial segregation, however, and the achievement went largely unrecognized until about 50 years later, when the team was honored as one of the best in Florida history.
♦ He accepted a football scholarship to play at Florida A&M, but quickly established himself as a track sensation. It’s said he never lost a 100-yard or 100-meter race in college. He set the world record for the 100-yard event (9.1 seconds) as well as the 200-meter dash (20.5, unratified).
♦ Hayes was selected to represent the United States in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. His football coach, however, wanted Hayes to focus on his gridiron training. It took a phone call from President Lyndon Johnson to get the coach to allow Hayes to prepare for the Games.
♦ In Tokyo, Hayes captured a gold medal in the 100-meter race, tying the world record (10.06 seconds) in the process. Then he ran the anchor leg for the U.S. 4x100m team, coming from behind to win another gold medal and setting a new world record (39.06). His relay leg was reportedly timed at between 8.5 and 8.9 seconds, which would be the fastest in history.
♦ Hayes retired as a track athlete after the Olympics. “I have reached my highest goal as an amateur, and I figure it’s time to give some other guy a chance,” he told a reporter. Instead, he turned his attention to professional football and the Dallas Cowboys, who selected him in the 7th round of the 1964 NFL Draft. The Cowboys saw potential in Hayes as a speed-burning wide receiver. (Future Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells was selected by the Detroit Lions with the very next pick.)
Bob Hayes (far right) anchored the U.S. 4x100m team’s gold medal effort at the Tokyo Olympics.
♦ Hayes made an immediate impact for the Cowboys, leading the NFL in TD receptions in each of his first two seasons (12 in 1965, 13 in 1966). In a game against the Washington Redskins, Hayes had 9 catches for 246 yards, setting a new franchise record. In 1967, he led the league in punt return yardage. Hayes’ teammates included all-time greats such as Don Meredith, Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, Mel Renfro and Dan Reeves.
♦ Hayes helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl VI. He had 2 receptions for 23 yards and 1 rushing attempt for 19 yards as Dallas easily handled the Miami Dolphins, 24-3. With the victory, Hayes became the first and only person to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring.
♦ In 1975, the Cowboys traded Hayes to the San Francisco 49ers. His skills on the decline, the Niners released the 34-year-old four weeks into the regular season. Hayes’ NFL career numbers: 371 receptions, 7,414 yards (20 yards per reception), 71 TDs. In all, he was First-Team All-Pro twice and Second-Team All-Pro twice. Hayes was also a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
♦ In March 1979, Hayes was sentenced to five years in prison for selling cocaine to an undercover agent. During the trial, Hayes said, “I’m guilty. I was wrong. I’ve paid the price in my image and my respect. People see me as Bob Hayes [the] dope dealer, not Bob Hayes the citizen. It hurts.” At the sentencing, former teammate and fellow Cowboy great Roger Staubach spoke in support of Hayes. “I see the potential in Bob as a human being,” he said. “It is difficult for me to come down here on a case like this. This tears my guts out.”
♦ Hayes died on Sept. 22, 2002 of kidney failure. He was 59. In January 2009, Hayes was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The day after the announcement, in a bizarre development, a woman claiming to be Hayes’ sister released a letter that was supposedly written by Hayes. The letter, according to Lucille Hester, was drafted in case he did not live to see the day of his induction. Both the letter and Hester were soon exposed as being fraudulent (among other bits of evidence, Staubach’s name was spelled “Stauback.”) On Aug. 9, 2009, Hayes was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Hayes was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
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