SI Vault
 
BOB HAYES (1942-2002)
Paul Zimmerman
September 30, 2002
He brought Olympian speed to the NFL, and it changed the face of defensive football, but there were demons in life that he couldn't outrun
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 30, 2002

Bob Hayes (1942-2002)

He brought Olympian speed to the NFL, and it changed the face of defensive football, but there were demons in life that he couldn't outrun

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2

That alone should have earned Hayes a spot in Canton, but in 1979, two years before he became eligible for enshrinement, he was sentenced to five years in prison for selling narcotics; he was paroled after serving 10 months. His alcohol and drug problems were a shock to those who knew him. He was a decent, forthright person with...well, major problems. But that was enough to keep him out of Canton, even though, according to the guidelines, a candidate should be judged solely on the basis of his performance on the field.

By the 1990s he was no longer a modern Hall of Fame candidate. He had been relegated to the Seniors pool, which can yield only one candidate a year and sometimes produces none.

"The situation with Bob Hayes and the Hall of Fame is one of the most tragic stories I've ever been associated with during my time in professional football," said Tex Schramm, the Cowboys' former president and general manager. But Schramm was a one-man selection committee for the Cowboys' Ring of Honor, and he never admitted Hayes. Jerry Jones, the team's owner since 1989, didn't admit Hayes until last year.

I would run into Hayes during the hard times that followed his stretch in prison. He was saddened by how his life had turned out, but not bitter—he was the same modest person he'd always been, with the same winning smile. And when I saw that smile, I'd always remember him as he was on that October day in 1964, in that little room in Tokyo, enjoying the most wonderful moment of his life.

1 2