Bob Hayes

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Read about Bob Hayes’ journey from 1964 Summer Olympics gold medalist to Hall of Fame wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. 

Hayes was a matchup nightmare for coaches throughout the National Football League. Nicknamed “Bullet”, the speedy wide receiver was the NFL’s first true, great deep threat.

Very few professional athletes can lay claim to changing their sport.

Bob Hayes was one of those athletes.

After winning two gold medals in the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Hayes dazzled coaches in the Cowboys’ 1965 training camp with his ability to blow by anyone that covered him.

Head coach Tom Landry and the rest of the coaching staff chalked up Hayes’ performance to it being training camp. They figured Bob was in better shape than everyone else due to his track training and assumed the defensive backs weren’t on top of their game yet.

It took Bob one game to prove he was a special player—catching eight balls for eighty-one yards and a touchdown.

Early life

Robert Lee Hayes was born December 20, 1942, in Jacksonville, Florida. Bob’s interest in running was developed during the time he spent with his brother Ernest, who was training to be a boxer.

Bob Hayes

At Matthew W. Gilbert High School, Hayes played halfback on the football team, center fielder on the baseball team, and ran track.

Bob Hayes was a confident young man and boasting came natural to him.

In his sophomore year at Gilbert, he approached the track coach and told him he could outrun any of the guys he had on his team.

When the coach called Bob’s bluff, he promptly went out and beat every sprinter on the team.

Hayes caught the eye of the track world as a junior when he ran a 100-yard dash in 9.6 seconds while winning the 220-yard dash, high jump, long jump, and both relays.

In the early 1960s of the segregated South, blacks were still not allowed in many of the universities in Florida.

With his speed, Bob Hayes could have gone anywhere to school—except he was the wrong color.

Unable to attend Florida or Florida State, Bob chose Florida A&M in Tallahassee where he set numerous school records and was inducted into FAMU’s Hall of Fame.

A three-time AAU 100-yard dash champion, Hayes would have been a four-time champion had his senior season not been cut short by his bid 1964 Olympic gold bid in Tokyo.

Tokyo Olympics

The race to determine who the fastest man on the planet had finally arrived. Bob Hayes had dreamed of (and trained for) this moment his entire life.

Bob Hayes
Number: 22
Position: Wide Receiver
Nickname: “Bullet”
Personal Information
Date of Birth: December 20, 1942
Place of Birth: Jacksonville, FL
Career Information
College: Florida A&M
Drafted: 1964 - Round: 7 - Pick: 88
Career History
  • Dallas Cowboys (1965—74)
  • San Francisco 49ers (1975)
Career Highlights
  • Pro Bowl (3x) (1965—67)
  • First-team All-Pro (2x) (1966, 68)
  • Second-team All-Pro (2x) (1965, 67)
  • Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor (2001)
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (2009)
Career Statistics
  Receptions: 371
  Receiving yards: 7,414
  Touchdowns: 71

But he never imagined he would have to run the race with one shoe?

Hayes had placed his bag in the infield and was putting on his spikes when he noticed the left shoe was missing.

He later discovered that his roommate, boxer Joe Frazier, had been rustling through Bob’s bag looking for chewing gum when the shoe fell out and rolled under the bed.

Fortunately his teammate Tommy Farrell was able to lend Bob a shoe to save the day.

As luck would have it—bad luck that is—Bob drew Lane 1 where the cinders had been chewed up from the previous event, the 10-kilometer race-walk.

But none of those things mattered.

Hayes blew away the field winning by seven feet and tying the world record of 10.06 seconds.

Later, having recovered his lost shoe from his room, Bob Hayes anchored the 4X100-meter relay team to win his second gold medal of the Games in a performance many experts believe has never been equaled.

Trailing be three meters when he took the baton, Hayes exploded past the French anchor, running an 8.6 split to take the US team from fifth to first.

The four-man team finished with a winning world-record time of 39.06 seconds.

Following his record-setting performance in Tokyo, Bob returned to Florida A&M and finished his football career by catching a 45-yard touchdown pass while rushing for two more scores.

At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, Hayes became the first black to play in the annual all-star game; catching a touchdown pass from Alabama’s Joe Namath while be awarded MVP for the South team.

An impostor crashes the party

Thirty-four years after his retirement, Bob Hayes’ time had finally come. The three-time All-Pro wide receiver was going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But what should have been a joyous time for the Hayes family turned into a circus.

The day after Hayes was announced as a member of the Hall of Fame class of 2009, a woman claiming to be Bob’s sister released a letter she said was written by Bob in 1999. The woman, Lucille Hester of Jacksonville, Florida, read the letter in a press conference in a touching moment.

The problem was it was all a lie.

The letter Hester claims was given to her by Bob Hayes contained a signature that was nothing like the one on authentic memorabilia.

On closer examination, the letter goes on to thank somebody by the name of “Roger Stauback.”

Did anyone really believe Bob Hayes would have misspelled his quarterback’s last name?

Even more fishy was the fact the letter contained a type-font that didn’t even exist when Bob was alive.

In the end, the Hayes family was able to thwart Hester’s attempt to share the limelight by keeping her from presenting Bob at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Instead, the family called on Roger Staubach to present the world-class sprinter.

The “Bullet” takes Dallas by storm

When the Cowboys selected Bob Hayes in the seventh round of the 1964 NFL draft, the Cowboys didn’t think much of the pick considering the track man wasn’t even eligible to play.

Having played halfback in college, Hayes was considered a project at wide receiver. Sure, everyone knew he was “The World’s Fastest Human”, but the Cowboys didn’t know if Hayes could make the transition to wide receiver.

It only took one game for the Cowboys to figure out they had a special talent on their hands.

With his world-class speed, Bob Hayes literally changed the way defenses played. Up until Bob came along, zone coverage was rarely if ever used.

Against Hayes, zone was required unless you enjoyed being embarrassed.

As a rookie, Hayes went on to catch 46 passes (a team record that still stands) for 1,003 yards, averaging a lead-leading 21.8 yards per catch with 12 touchdowns. These numbers are even more impressive when you consider defensive backs could chuck a receiver all the way down the field.

Hayes still holds the franchise for receiving touchdowns in a game (4) and shares the record for most 100-yard games in a season (7) with the team’s greatest receiver of all-time, Michael Irvin.

His first four years with the club were his best, but alcohol slowed the speedy receiver and eventually led to him being benched.

Landry claimed Hayes was loafing, but Bob was giving it his all. It was the booze that was dragging him down.

Prison and Bob’s struggles to get clean

Leading up to and following the end of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, Bob Hayes battled a drinking problem that eventually led to cocaine. After his final season in 1975 with San Francisco, his dependency on alcohol and drugs escalated.

On April 6, 1978, the former All-Pro wideout hit rock bottom when he was arrested in the Dallas suburb of Addison for attempting to sell cocaine and Quaaludes to an undercover police officer.

When Hayes was booked into the county jail, the scene was complete chaos as cops, guards, and other jail employees swarmed Bob for autographs.

One year later, Hayes received a five-year sentence with the possibility for parole after ten months. During his time in prison, one of Hayes’ biggest supporters was Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm.

Tex was convinced Bob Hayes had been the victim of a set up by a police department intent on securing a high-profile bust. So much so that he arranged for a five-day furlough with the Texas State Penitentiary so Bob could attend the team’s 20th anniversary celebration in 1979.

Following his release from prison, Bob leaned on his former teammates for support.

Drew Pearson gave Bob a place to stay and Clint Murchison Jr. and Roger Staubach both found jobs for the troubled former star. Staubach even paid for Hayes’ alcohol rehabilitation.

After a number of stints in and out of rehab over the years, Hayes started Person to Person, a group designed to educate youngsters about the dangers of drug an alcohol abuse.

He started the group to help himself out more so than the community.

In 1991, Bob Hayes held a bizarre press conference in the same Dallas suburb where he was arrested twelve years earlier claiming he had new evidence that would prove his innocence.

His former head coach Tom Landry was there to lend his support as he asked for a governor’s pardon.

Hayes went on to say he had affidavits from his codefendant that stated he was present at the drug bust but did not participate.

He also claimed he pled guilty to the charges on the advice of his attorney.

But Bob Hayes’ request fell upon deaf ears and he never received the pardon he was hoping would turn his life around and restore his name with the Dallas public.

Heartbroken over his defeat, Bob moved back to Jacksonville to live with his parents.

Cancer and the Ring of Honor

After returning to Florida in the mid-1990s, Bob continued to battle his drug and alcohol dependency entering rehab on three different occasions.

Years of heavy drinking had taken its toll on his liver and by the end of the ’90s, Bob had fought off liver and kidney issues in addition to prostate cancer.

In September, 2001, Bob Hayes was finally inducted into the Cowboys Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor at halftime during a game against the San Diego Chargers.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm had already decided to put Hayes in the Ring of Honor long ago. But following his release from prison in 1979, Tex felt it was too early to be honoring a former player who just got done serving hard time.

Schramm was unable to attend the ceremony due to a broken vertebrae he had suffered earlier that week. But as he watched from his television, he was proud to see Bob Hayes finally receive the adoration he deserved.

A year later, Bob was back in the hospital with yet another bout with kidney problems. On September 18, 2002, Bob Hayes finally succumbed to kidney failure.

At age 59, “Bullet” Bob Hayes was gone far too early.

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