1964 Olympic 100 Meters Champion
At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Hayes won the gold medal in the 100 meters, tying
the then-world record of 10.05 seconds, and he anchored the United States 400-meter
relay team to victory in a world-record 39.06. Hayes' relay split was a sensational
8.6 and he earned the title "World's Fastest Human." Nearly 20 years later,
The Los Angeles Times called it "the most astonishing sprint of all time."
Robert Lee Hayes was born in Jacksonville on Dec. 20, 1942, and went on to become
a track star at Florida A&M. In 1964, the Cowboys drafted him in the seventh
round, taking a chance on a sprinter with blazing speed but unrefined football skills.
In his rookie season with the Cowboys, Hayes had 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns while
leading the NFL with an average of 21.8 yards a catch. That showed his big-play
ability, and Hayes' world-class speed forced defenses -- unable to cover him with
traditional man-to-man schemes -- to come up with many of the zone defenses that
are common in today's game. When Dallas won the 1972 Super Bowl, Hayes became the
only athlete to win an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring. More than 30 years
later, he's still the only player with both. He finished an 11-year NFL career
with 71 touchdown catches, a 20-yard average per catch and three trips to the Pro
Bowl. Hayes served 10 months in prison after an April 1979 guilty plea to delivering
narcotics to an undercover police officer. That "destroyed my life," Hayes
wrote in his autobiography, Run, Bullet, Run: The Rise, Fall, and Recovery of
Hayes was inducted in the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1976. Hayes died in September of 2002 at the age of 59 from kidney failure after a prolonged illness including liver problems and prostate cancer.
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