BOB HAYES: It's About Time

"The World's Fastest Man" is finally in. But it seemed to take "The World's Longest Time."

Saturday's Super Bowl Week announcement that former Dallas Cowboys receiver "Bullet'' Bob Hayes will on Aug. 8 be one of six new inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame marks the culmination of a lengthy and dramatic debate over the candidacy of an athlete who truly altered the way football is played. Fittingly, the acceptance of the announcement was dramatic, too.

Hayes passed away in 2002 at age 59, somewhat satisfied after having been inducted into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor. In anticipation of maybe … someday. … having the HOF see the light, he wrote a letter to his sister, Lucille Hester, to read. … in case "maybe'' and "someday'' ever came.

Bob Hayes' letter:

I would like to thank everyone who supported me to get into the NFL Hall of Fame. Thank the Dallas Cowboy organization, all of my teammates and everyone who played for the Cowboys. Thank the San Francisco 49ers too.

Thank the fans from all around the country and the world. Thank the committee who voted for me and also some who may not have. Thank mother and my family. Thank Roger Staubach and tell all my teammates I love them. Thank the Pro Football Hall of Fame, all the NFL teams and players, Florida A&M University.

Thank you to everyone who attended Matthew Gilbert High School. Thank everyone in Jacksonville and Florida and everyone especially on the East Side of Jacksonville, where we were raised. Thank everyone in the city of Dallas, and the state of Texas, and just thank everyone in the whole world. I love you all.

Signed,
Bob Hayes.

Hayes' family is expressing its appreciation to HOF voters Rick Gosselin and Paul Zimmerman, who championed Hayes' induction. I might add the name of Frank Luksa, a great writer and honorable man who proceeded Gosselin as the Dallas representative and who, as I recall from our conversations, has felt haunted at his inability to see Hayes' merits.

Bob Hayes won two Olympic gold medals in 1964 and was dubbed "The World's Fastest Man'' thanks to his a 10.0-second 100-meter dash. The innovative Cowboys drafted him that year, Tex Schramm, Tom Landry and Gil Brandt overseeing a scouting department intrigued by what Hayes could do as a flanker.

And what did Bob Hayes do? He led the league in receiving touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. He was a critical weapon on a suddenly perennial contender. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and was named All-Pro four times. He was virtually impossible to cover one-on-one – and so teams created basketball-like zone defenses in order to guard him.

Of course, now, zone defenses are standard. All because of Bob Hayes.

His induction (along with Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson, Rod Woodson) essentially ends the long-held belief in Dallas that there is a "Cowboys bias'' by voters. Landry, Tex Schramm, Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Mel Renfro, Rayfield Wright, Randy White, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Tony Dorsett are all in. Emmitt Smith is an anticipated lock. In related good news, the selection of McDaniel (a terrific guard, mostly for Minnesota) makes Dallas guard Larry Allen a future virtual lock, too.

The Hall of Fame announcement means different things in different cities. But in Dallas, and to Cowboys fans, this is a 30-year wait (Hayes retired in 1975) and this is one-of-a-kind: Hayes will become the first athlete ever with an Olympic gold medal, a Super Bowl ring and a Hall of Fame bust.

Said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: "This is a deserving honor for one of the Cowboys' most and truly gifted stars. 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. I couldn't be happier for Bob, he was always one of my personal favorites. This is a great day for Bob Hayes' legacy, his family, and the Dallas Cowboys.''

Bob Hayes now lives, in the Hall of Fame, forever.

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