Aug 092009
 

He was a world famous athlete before he joined the Dallas Cowboys. Already a world record holder in the 100 meter dash and the owner of an Olympic gold medal, “Bullet” Bob Hayes was known as the the fastest man in the world. In 2009, he remains the only man to ever earn an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring.

The Bullet!

The Bullet!

Bob Hayes changed the game of football. He was fast, sure, but as former Cowboys master scout Gil Brandt pointed out, he was not a track man who tried his hand at football; he was a football player who excelled on the track field.

Bob Hayes impacted the game of football immensely. In a day when the run was dominant in the NFL, Hayes averaged twenty yards per reception. He scored a touchdown every five times he touched the football. Eighteen times, Bob Hayes scored touchdowns of fifty yards or more. And even though he retired in 1974, and has been succeeded by wide receiver greats like Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin, Hayes still holds the Dallas Cowboys’ record with 71 career touchdown receptions.

It is a shame of monstrous proportions that Bob Hayes was posthumously enshrined in pro football’s greatest fraternity. Hall of Fame voters, though they may never admit it aloud, held his post-career legal problems against him. He did some hard time for drug trafficking and that was all the excuse the anti-Cowboys faction in the northeast needed to rob him of the honor he has long deserved. The NFL Hall of Fame is supposed to consider the on-the-field contributions of players – that and nothing else. If they had done that with Bob Hayes, he would have been in Canton to personally accept the honor and see his bust where it belonged.

Of course, the same Hall of Fame voters ignored the drug problems of New York Giants’ great, Lawrence Taylor, and enshrined him as quickly as possible. He deserved the honor. So did Hayes. Both men changed the way the game was played. Taylor redefined the position of linebacker, especially as it related to rushing the quarterback, and Hayes is credited with prompting the implementation of the bump-and-run defense because of his blazing speed.

While Cowboys fans everywhere understand that this is a time for celebration, we are also reminded of the backlash from being fans of a team that plays in Dallas and counts three major east coast media markets as its chief rivals. The evidence is too great to ignore the bias that kept players like Hayes and Rayfield Wright out of the Hall of Fame for so long…and continues to deny players like Cliff Harris and Drew Pearson their place among the all-time greats of the NFL. It is telling that Bob Hayes is only the eleventh Dallas Cowboy to be enshrined in Canton…especially when you consider the great teams the Cowboys fielded in the late ’60s, the ’70s, the early ’80s, and the early to mid ’90s.

Bob Hayes’ biography on the official site of the NFL Hall of Fame includes the following paragraph:

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.

Kind of makes you want to ask the voters, “Did you just now figure that out? Or did you know it all along and vote him down anyway? Why did it take the old-timer’s voters to finally get “Bullet” Bob the recognition he deserves?”

They were only about thirty years late. Better late than never just doesn’t seem quite good enough.