On a cool, crisp Saturday evening, the late FAMU sports great Robert “Bullet Bob” Hayes finally had his dream of football immortality realized, as he joined five others in the National Football League (NFL) Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hayes’ 2009 enshrinement classmates included Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Jr., defensive back Rod Woodson (Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Oakland, Baltimore), guard Randall McDaniel (Minnesota), defensive tackle Bruce Smith (Buffalo and Washington) and linebacker Derrick Thomas (Kansas City), who like Hayes, was inducted posthumously.
Both Hayes and Thomas were represented by their sons, Bob Jr. and Darrien.
Hayes’ son during his acceptance speech on behalf of his father, said: “When I'm watching my dad on film, it’s just mind blowing. Because somebody that fast can’t be human. He got the name Bullet Bob because of his speed, because he was fast like a bullet. He was so fast they didn’t have an answer for him.”
“He revolutionized the game of football because of his world-class speed as a sprinter…
In his last days, he used to talk about the Hall of Fame. It hurts because he should have been here to witness this special occasion.
“But, unfortunately, he didn't make it to see it. I know wherever he is, he’s smiling. He’s happy. He knows what’s going on. And he’ll be with us in our spirits, in our hearts and our minds. For us he’s always been a Hall of Famer.
“I knew one day it was going to happen. He was always going to be a big joker. So maybe he would say ‘It's about time, y'all. I've been waiting 30 something years.’”
For Hayes, his family and his legion of fans, which included Florida A&M University alumni and friends, this day was a long time coming, and tinged a bit with sadness that the legendary sports great could not be here to experience this defining moment in person, due to his death in 2002 at age 59, after a long illness.
From the moment the NFL announced in January that he would be part of the 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class, Hayes’ many accomplishments came to light again as the enshrinement weekend drew near thanks to the Internet and media outlets including ESPN and NFL Network.
His many great sports moments from his days at FAMU in both football and track; his Hall of Fame track career which culminated in the two Olympic gold medals he won in the 1964 Tokyo Games; to his pro football performance during an 11-year career (Dallas and San Francisco), which many credit with revolutionizing the staid old NFL of the 1960s, left many in awe of this singular personality.
In support of Hayes in Canton were members of his family, classmates and friends from old Matthew Gilbert High School in his native Jacksonville, Fla., along with FAMU classmates, teammates and coaches.
FAMU President James H. Ammons headed the official FAMU supporters, which included former presidents Walter L. Smith, Ph.D., Frederick S. Humphries, Ph.D. and Fred Gainous, Ph.D., along with Athletic Director Bill Hayes, and Joseph P. Ramsey, II, Ph.D.,chairman of the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame Steering Committee.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival in Canton, Ohio, birthplace of the NFL, is a week-long event, which culminates with the induction and the Hall of Fame Football Game at Fawcett Stadium.
On Friday evening at the Canton Memorial Civic Center, Hayes and his 2009 classmates were formally introduced and regaled with a video highlights presentation at the Enshrinees Dinner. The dinner also featured recognition of more than 50 living members of the Hall of Fame.
On Saturday evening, the three-hour long enshrinement ceremony at Fawcett Stadium featured video highlights, stirring introductions and acceptance speeches from the honorees, as well as the unveiling of the fabled bronze busts that will be housed in the fabulous Pro Football Hall of Fame Museum.
Hall of Fame legend quarterback Roger Staubach, who was not only a teammate of Hayes with Dallas, but also a close, personal friend, served as the presenter, reflecting on his memories of Hayes both on and off the field.
Before the unveiling of the bust, Staubach made a presentation to the audience. Staubach said of Hayes: “He was so impactful …. And you look at the league, and back then it was a lot of you ran more because the passing game was a little bit more difficult because of the ability to hit receivers.
“But Bob really had an impact on the kind of coverage they use in the National Football League. And that's what the Hall of Fame is about, is having an impact. And a great player like Bob Hayes truly had an impact on the NFL, and he had a tremendous impact on the Dallas Cowboys.
Staubach along with Bob Hayes, Jr., unveiled the bronze bust of the former Rattler great, officially enshrining him into the hallowed Hall.
“Bob worked with me in the '80s, and Bob faced some challenges. And everyone was there to help him through the challenges, because he was there when you needed Bob Hayes.
“He was almost generous to a fault. But Bob Hayes was really, really a decent, caring human being that had extraordinary skills. And old Speedo (his Cowboy nickname) was one humble son of a gun. I don’t know if he ever showed me his gold medals from the Olympics.
“He just was a big guy. A great athlete, who faced some challenges. Some a little bit more than most of us go through. And his family was always there for him. He was always there for them.... So it's a real privilege for me to say thank you, Canton… Thank you NFL and thank you to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for making sure that this great athlete that had an impact on the NFL is in the Hall of Fame.”
Robert “Bullet Bob” Hayes, once known as “The World’s Fastest Human,” and still known as the only man to be a world champion in two sports (track and football) will now be forever known by everyone as one of the greatest professional football players of all time.