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The fastest human in spikes—or cleats
Tom C. Brody
December 14, 1964
The Olympic 100-meter champion, Bob Hayes, closed out his college football career as Florida A & M beat Grambling last week. He was one of eight pro-draft choices in the Negro bowl game, and may be the best
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December 14, 1964

The Fastest Human In Spikes—or Cleats

The Olympic 100-meter champion, Bob Hayes, closed out his college football career as Florida A & M beat Grambling last week. He was one of eight pro-draft choices in the Negro bowl game, and may be the best

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For all Bob Hayes's individual skills, Florida A&M went into the game with Louisiana's Grambling as one-touchdown underdogs, a fact very puzzling to Jake Gaither. No less than 16 of his backs have been timed in the 100-yard dash at under 10 seconds, including six freshmen who are just a hot breath behind Hayes himself. And instead of the traditionally smallish lines that Gaither assembles, this year's averages 235 pounds and is quick. And three players besides Hayes were drafted by the pros. Halfback Bobby Felts was picked by Baltimore and Houston, junior Dave Daniels, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound tackle, was chosen as a Bear future pick, and both Minnesota and Houston are bidding for a 6-foot-3 255-pounder named Carlton Oaks, who plays end. "This team should be the best I've ever had," says Gaither, "but it isn't." A&M lost a regular-season game, and this is something it usually does only in the Orange Blossom, a unique bowl game in which A&M is always host and the other top Negro school in the country is the guest. It is nice to know that, no matter what happens, you are going to a bowl, but this also creates certain pressures. As Gaither says, "It means we can't have a bad year." Since 1945 Gaither's teams, which have won 165 games against only 25 losses, have not.

In this year's Orange Blossom, Grambling did not have the hair-raising speed of Florida, but its backs were quick enough and the line, with an average weight of 240 pounds a man, was the biggest in college football. And Grambling could match its host draft pick for draft pick. Quarterback Mike Howell was selected by the Browns and Chargers, and Flanker Willie Williams was chosen by the Giants. It is, however, the Grambling tackles who are particularly awesome. Frank Kornish ( Chicago and Kansas City) weighs in at 270, and Alfonse Dotson ( Green Bay and Kansas City) is 10 pounds lighter but 10 pounds meaner. When told that Florida A&M was going to test them (it is Gaither's contention that nobody stops his slants off tackle), Dotson lifted one eyebrow and murmured: "You don't say so?"

Gaither reverted to prayer—of a sort—just before kickoff. The players gathered and said in unison: "We wounded them. They have fallen at our feet. They shall not rise. Allah." Gaither has no idea what the incantation means, but he has been using it since his first game, and he has no plans for breaking the habit now. Prayers weren't needed. A&M simply was too fast for Grambling—and in the first half it was using Hayes only as a decoy. He never carried the ball from scrimmage, and he was not passed to once. People in the Orange Bowl were beginning to wonder just what Hayes was supposed to be doing out there.

They got the answer in the third quarter. Quarterback Ernie Hart went back to pass, and a single, somewhat bored Grambling secondary defender ambled over to cover Hayes. The desultory young man might just as well have laid his head in a lion's mouth and fallen asleep. Suddenly Hayes was not just running through another pass pattern. He was sprinting, and he was in the clear. When he caught the pass on the 20, two other defenders raced over, but Hayes was in top gear by then, and with that strange, rocking stride of his left the two men staring at each other.

The pros came running almost as fast as Hayes, and Dallas, with a little more money, was ahead from the start.

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