The long, slow wait to get into the Hall of Fame ended at last for one of the fastest men to play in the NFL, Bob Hayes.
"Bullet Bob," the 1964 Olympic 100-meter gold medalist who
went on to star for a decade with the Dallas Cowboys, was elected
on Saturday, 28 years after first becoming eligible for induction.
His problems off the field were believed to have contributed to
the delay, and though he died in 2002, he made sure his sister
would be prepared if, somehow, he made it someday.
"He left a statement for me to read in case this day came,"
Lucille Hester said.
In the letter, Hayes thanked everyone who supported him, even
those who may not have voted for him. He thanked teammates,
everyone who played for the Cowboys - singling out Roger Staubach -
and also thanked the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he finished his
Hayes paid tribute to his high school, Florida A&M and concluded
by thanking his hometown of Jacksonville, Dallas and the state of
"Just thank everyone in the whole world. I love you all," he
Hayes had drug and alcohol problems and legal issues in an era
when the public wasn't nearly as accustomed to seeing its sports
stars struggle off the field. He served 10 months in a Texas prison
after pleading guilty in 1979 to delivering narcotics to an
That "destroyed my life" Hayes wrote in his autobiography,
"Run, Bullet, Run: The Rise, Fall, and Recovery of Bob Hayes."
The prison term ended at about the same time he became eligible for
Earlier in the week Staubach said he was pulling for Hayes to
get in and spoke about how his teammate revolutionized the passing
game, changing the way defenses played. Staubach claimed Hayes
would be the fastest player in the NFL if he were playing today.
One of Hayes' biggest supporters for induction was Cowboys owner
Jerry Jones. In 2001, Jones made sure Hayes was inducted into the
team's Ring of Fame.
"This is a deserving honor for one of the Cowboys' most truly
gifted stars," Jones said. "We all know he changed the game on
the field, but he also brought a unique star quality to the NFL
that helped make professional football the most popular sport in
the world. He was a world champion in two different sports, and he
had a world-class heart.
"This is a great day for Bob Hayes' legacy, his family and the
Hayes twice led the NFL in touchdown receptions and in average
yards per catch. He also was a terrific kick returner.
At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Hayes won the 100 meters, tying the
world record of 10.05 seconds. He anchored the U.S. 400-meter relay
team to victory in a world-record 39.06. Hayes' relay split was a
sensational 8.6 seconds.
That speed translated to the football field, but his other
troubles seemed to obscure his accomplishments.
"It didn't matter how long it took," his sister said. "The day is here,
and it is historic."