“Bullet Bob” Hayes is the only athlete in history to win an Olympic gold medal and Super Bowl ring.
In track circles, Bob Hayes is revered among the likes of Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens. He held world records in five distances, ranging from 60 yards to 200 meters. Hayes won two gold medals at the 1964 Summer Olympics and was considered the fastest man in the world. He played 11 seasons in the NFL—ten with the Dallas Cowboys and one in San Francisco—and scored 76 touchdowns while amassing 7,414 yards as a wide receiver. He was a football player who ran track and was always as fast as he needed to be. “Scary. The speed he had was beyond belief,” said Gil Brandt, the man who drafted him in Dallas. Hayes led the Cowboys in receiving three times and is still the franchise leader in touchdown receptions. A three-time All-Pro selection, Bullet Bob averaged twenty yards per catch. In 1970, he scored four touchdowns in one game against the Houston Oilers and was pro football’s consummate deep threat.
Robert Lee Hayes was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on this date in 1942. He attended Matthew Gilbert High School, where he played football, basketball and ran track. A halfback on the football team, Hayes helped the Panthers finish 12-0 to win the 1958 Florida black high school state championship. He was highly recruited coming out of Gilbert High and chose Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University—alma mater of Meadowlark Lemon [Daily Dose, 4/25/16] and Althea Gibson [Daily Dose, 8/25/16]—a historically black college in Tallahassee. Hayes became a two-sport standout at A&M. He played for legendary coach Jake Gaither and shared the backfield with future Chicago Bears halfback Willie “The Wisp” Galimore and quarterback Charlie Ward, father of 1993 Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward Jr.
Hayes is arguably the fastest sprinter of all time. During his four years at Florida A&M, he lost only two of 62 finals at 100 yards or 100 meters. In 1962, he tied the world record of 9.2 in the 100-yard dash and became the first person to break six seconds in the 60. Hayes broke the world record in the 100 the following year and his record stood for 11 years until Ivory Crockett ran 9.0 in 1974. He was a three-time AAU champion in the 100-yard dash and was 1964 NCAA 200 meter champion. After setting world records in the 220-yard and 200-meter dashes, Bullet Bob was selected to the U.S. Olympic team for the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo. The Games were to be held in October—football season—and Gaither would not give Hayes time to train for track, prompting President Lyndon B. Johnson to call the coach and ask him to allow Hayes time to run.
On October 15, 1964, Hayes ran 9.9 in the Olympic 100 meter semifinal, a time not ratified because it was ruled to be wind-assisted. In the final later that day, Hayes drew Lane One. On a badly chewed up cinder track from the 20K racewalk the day before, Bob Hayes—running in borrowed spikes after leaving his back in Florida—ran 10.0 to tie the world record and capture the gold medal. Hayes obliterated the field, winning by four full meters—a staggering margin of victory in an Olympic 100 not seen since Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Games. Bullet Bob had not earned just any Olympic medal, but the gold medal, earning him the title of “Fastest Man in the World.” His performance in the 4 x 100 meter relay six days later was one of the most memorable moments of the Games. Hayes was behind five relay teams when he got the baton on the anchor leg of the 4 x 100, made up nine meters on the field, and finished six feet ahead of his nearest competitor to win gold in a new world record time of 39.06. Hayes’ anchor leg of 8.6 is one of the fastest relay legs in history. Before the race, France’s anchor, Jocelyn Delecor, told Paul Drayton, who would be leading off for the Americans, “You can’t win, all you have is Bob Hayes.” After the U.S. victory, Drayton– who would go on to win silver in the 200 meter final–replied, “That’s all we need.” It was the last race of 21-year-old Robert Lee Hayes’ career.
The Denver Broncos selected Florida A&M’s Bob Hayes with the 105th overall pick of the 1964 AFL Draft. Three days later, the Dallas Cowboys chose Hayes in the seventh round of the NFL draft, one spot ahead of future Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells of Wichita State. Bullet Bob chose the NFL, and football insiders wondered if a track man could succeed in a contact sport like pro football. Hayes answered all doubts by leading the Cowboys with 46 receptions for 1,003 yards. One in four of his catches went for touchdowns—a better home run percentage than Babe Ruth. Hayes also returned kicks. In 1968, he led the NFL in punt returns, averaging over 20 yards per return. Hayes possessed the type of speed the game had never seen before. “He had the ability to use his speed in a football sense,” recalled St. Louis Cardinals hall of fame safety Larry Wilson. “He had several speeds, all of them fast.” Hayes put pressure on an opponent. The bump-and-run defense was developed to slow him down. “He changed the game,” said former Cowboys teammate Mike Ditka. “He made defenses and defensive coordinators work hard to figure out what you had to do to stop him.” Hayes—who once ran 60 yards in 5.28 on a cinder track—became the most dangerous weapon in football. “As long as Bobby is in the lineup the other team has to make adjustments it normally doesn’t have to make,” said former Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach.
On January 16, 1972, Bob Hayes helped the Dallas Cowboys win their first NFL championship with a 24-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. Staubach targeted the speedy receiver five times, two of which resulted in completions for a total of 23 yards. Bullet Bob also had one carry for 16 yards. Hayes played in two Super Bowls with Dallas.
In 2009, Bob Hayes was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming [after Jim Thorpe] the second gold medalist to be inducted into Canton. He is a member of the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, is a member of the inaugural class of the Florida A&M Sports Hall of Fame and in 2011 was voted into the Black College Hall of Fame. In September 2002, Mr. Hayes died of kidney failure in Jacksonville. He was 59.
“Catching a game-winning touchdown pass is more of a thrill than winning gold medals. You play football for your team, not for yourself.”