When I was in elementary school there used to be a gum ball machine that yielded little helmets for all of the NFL teams. Every day I would beg my parents for a quarter so I could get a new one as I tried to collect them all. Of course while I ultimately wanted every team there was one that I wanted above all… the Dallas Cowboys.
After about 7 Broncos, 5 Packers, and 3 49ers I got it – the big enchilada.
Throughout this Countdown To Kickoff series here at Inside The Star we have covered a lot of greatness. We’ve had Pro Bowlers, All Pros, Super Bowl Champions, and Hall of Famers. Some numbers have stuck out a little bit more than others. 94 has two legendary pass rushers and Club 88 is all about being a big-time wide receiver.
Today, 22 in our Countdown To Kickoff, is the big enchilada.
The number 22 is arguably the greatest number in Dallas Cowboys History as it boasts two Pro Football Hall of Famers that played two different positions. Join me as we recount two of the most beloved players in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Following Players Have All Worn 22 For The Dallas Cowboys:
^Pro Football Hall of Famer
Legend Of #22: Bob Hayes
The NFL is filled with the finest athletes that the world has to offer. We’re talking about the most physically gifted individuals on the entire planet.
The biggest, the smartest, the strongest, and the fastest human beings all flock to the National Football League.
During the 7th round of the 1964 NFL Draft the actual fastest man on the face of the earth was drafted to play wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. What a wide receiver he would become.
Florida A&M – Robert Lee Hayes
Jump in my DeLorean and let’s go back to the Florida A&M campus in 1962 so we can see what this Robert Lee Hayes kid was all about. Don’t worry about that hoverboard or sports almanac; we’ll need those later (can you tell I love Back To The Future?).
Bob, as he’s known around town, doesn’t even need a DeLorean because he can reach 88 miles per hour by foot. In 1962 Hayes tied the world record for the 100-yard dash, running it in 9.2 seconds. He’d actually go on to break the record the following year with a time of 9.1 seconds, a record that would stand for 11 years. Bob also blasted through 200 meters in 20.5 seconds and 220 yards in 20.6 seconds (while running into an eight mile per hour wind, mind you). The words you’re looking for are, “holy crap.”
Konnichiwa! Tokyo, Japan played host to the 1964 Olympic Games when Bob Hayes became an official, and literal, worldwide sprinting sensation.
Bob Hayes won the Gold Medal in the 100m with a time of 10.06 seconds (tying the then world record). That’s faster than the time it took me to type that sentence!
Hayes also served as a part of the United States Men’s 4x100m Relay Team. When you’ve got Bob Hayes on your team you don’t need much else, as France’s Jocelyn Delocour put it, and with Hayes the red, white, and blue took gold… giving Bob his second Gold Medal in the Games.
Bob left Tokyo with two Gold Medals around his neck and returned home an American Hero. Two months later he would become a part of America’s Team.
1964 NFL Draft
The 1964 NFL Draft is arguably the greatest one to have ever taken place. It yielded 11 Pro Football Hall of Famers, more than any other draft class in history… three of them being Dallas Cowboys: Mel Renfro (2nd round), Bob Hayes (7th round), and Roger Staubach (10th round).
Bob, and Roger Staubach, were selected with “futures picks” which allowed them to be drafted by NFL teams before they finished their college eligibility.
Many wondered whether the track star, and Olympic Gold Medal Winner, Bob Hayes could succeed in pro football or not. I mean, sure the guy was fast, but could he catch?
Hayes sprinted into the NFL with force. He led the league in touchdowns in both of his first two years, with 12 and 13 respectively, while covering 2,235 yards in the process.
Bullet Bob Hayes
Bob Hayes was so fast that he was thought to be able to outrun a bullet, and he proved it on the football field. Hayes was the ultimate deep threat on the gridiron as evidenced by his league leading yards-per-reception in both 1970 and 1971, 26.1 and 24.0. Nobody could keep up with him.
The bullet speed of Bob Hayes forced defensive coordinators to adapt and completely change their defensive schemes. Teams had to move to a “zone” defense because Bob was going to beat whoever lined up on him in single man coverage every single time and therefore demanded deep, double man coverage schemes.
The “bump and run” technique was implemented largely to stop Bob Hayes. Defensive backs had to disrupt his route right off of the line of scrimmage just to have a chance at slowing him down. It was never any use and Bob Hayes ran past them all.
#22: Bob Hayes
The 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class featured the first man to win both an Olympic Gold Medal (1964) and a Super Bowl Ring (1971/Super Bowl VI). Bob Hayes posthumously joined the most elite fraternity in professional sports, his bust and memory being introduced by his quarterback, Roger Staubach.
Bob Hayes isn’t just one of the greatest Dallas Cowboys of all-time, he isn’t even just one of the greatest football players of all-time… Bob Hayes is one of the finest athletes to ever walk the face of the earth.
He was only the second Olympic Gold Medal Winner enshrined in the Hall of Fame, following Jim Thorpe… who serves as the inspiration for the Hall residing in Canton, Ohio.
The legend of Bob Hayes has rippled even into today’s NFL as the effect of his incredible speed serves as the foundation for so many NFL defenses. His career resume includes:
- 2-Time Olympic Gold Medalist (1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan)
- 365 Career Receptions
- 7,295 Career Receiving Yards (5th in Franchise History)
- 71 Career Receiving Touchdowns (1st in Franchise History)
- 20.0 Career Yards Per Reception Average (6th All-Time)
- 95 Yard Reception in 1966 (Longest Reception in Dallas Cowboys History)
- 3-Time Pro Bowl Selection (1965, 1966, 1967)
- 2-Time First-Team All-Pro Selection (1966, 1968)
- Super Bowl VI Champion
- Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, Class of 2001
- Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2009
Bob Hayes was one of the most magnificent wide receivers to ever play the game of football. He etched the number 22 into greatness, but another individual forever immortalized it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to present, the NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher…
Legend Of #22: Emmitt Smith
Despite 700 career attempts for 3,928 yards and 36 touchdowns… the University of Florida’s Emmitt Smith was thought to be “too small” for the professional game of football. This caused him to slip all the way to the 17th pick of the 1990 NFL Draft. Smith joined the Dallas Cowboys and was the final piece to what would become one of the most dominant teams in NFL History.
The new 22 joined quite the loaded team. He had an offensive line that was considered the best in the NFL, known as the Great Wall of Dallas, and he had a star quarterback named Troy Aikman who threw passes to the team’s number one receiver, Michael Irvin.
Other playmakers like Alvin Harper and Jay Novacek lined up on offense… but Smith, Aikman, and Irvin were a cut above the rest. “The Triplets” were about to dominate the game of football.
Smith put together 937 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season, earning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. After that is when things really got interesting.
1991 was the year that the Dallas Cowboys finally started cooking with gas and Emmitt Smith, to quote Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, took a FLAMETHROWER to it! Emmitt ran, ran, then ran some more, ran again, then kept running. Take a look at his stats from 1991-1995:
*Super Bowl Champions, NFL Leader
During this run Emmitt Smith became the first player in NFL History to rush for 1,400+ yards in five straight seasons, while leading the league in rushing in four of them.
This five-season window is also sandwiched between 1990 and 1996 when Smith had 11 and 12 touchdowns, respectively. That makes Emmitt one of three players to start their careers with seven straight ten-touchdown seasons; Jim Brown and LaDainian Tomlinson are the other two.
As you are probably well aware – the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1992, 1993, and 1995. This cemented them as a dynasty within the pages of Pro Football History, and the ink on the paper read Emmitt Smith.
In each of their Super Bowl seasons, the Dallas Cowboys were armed with the NFL’s rushing champion. Emmitt Smith and his Triplet Teammates made the Cowboys lethal from all aspects of the offense.
After winning their first title in 1992 the Cowboys, and Emmitt, wanted more in 1993. This became a historical year for Emmitt Smith as he became the first, and only, running back in NFL History to win in one season:
- NFL Rushing Title
- NFL MVP Award
- Super Bowl Championship
- Super Bowl MVP
Run, Emmitt, Run
After the Super Bowl victories Emmitt Smith was not done. He kept on running and uncovered yard after yard. He posted 1,000+ yard seasons all the way through 2001, which made him the first person not just to achieve 11 1,000+-yard seasons, but Emmitt achieved them consecutively!
Accolades like these obviously don’t happen to just any football player. It takes an enormous amount of grit, dedication, and durability to dominate such a physically violent game over such a long period of time.
Emmitt Smith was neither the fastest nor flashiest guy on the field, but he was the strongest. Smith had a will that absolutely could not be broken. Michael Irvin has long regarded that when Emmitt hit the field, he’d turn into Superman. It’s hard to dispute that as Emmitt was in fact a Man of Steel over the course of his entire career.
Once you reach the top of the mountain it’s hard to get back. We see every year how Super Bowl teams fall off because everyone is gunning for them. Even then, it’s human nature to get complacent once you’ve tasted the sweet nectar of victory. Not for Emmitt Smith.
Amidst all the awards, parades, and confetti showers… Emmitt Smith wanted more. There are many Super Bowl winners, there are plenty of NFL MVPs, but there is only one NFL All-Time Leading Rusher.
When Emmitt Smith entered the NFL the crown belonged to Walter Payton, and Emmitt knew it would take everything he had to win it. From the moment he had an NFL locker Emmitt Smith wrote down some goals that he wanted to achieve.
With such an illustrious career he had already accomplished a majority of them, now it was time to chase the big one.
After 11 straight 1,000+-yard seasons Emmitt Smith entered the 2002 season with the record in sight.
“Move Over, Sweetness! Make A Place For Emmitt!”
Through the first 7 games of the season, Emmitt chipped away. On October 27th, 2002 the Dallas Cowboys would play host to the Seattle Seahawks… and Emmitt Smith was 93 yards from Walter Payton.
I know that there are a lot of records in sports. I even know that a lot of them revolve around “iron man” type performances (Cal Ripken Jr. and Brett Favre come to mind). To conquer this record, and to unseat Walter Payton in doing so, took more will, drive, and durability than any of those in my opinion.
The running back position, especially in the days of Emmitt Smith, takes a beating. Even with a great offensive line and a fullback like Daryl Johnston, it’s a punishing gig. Only one man could have done it.
With approximately 10 minutes to go in the game, 13 yards away from glory, Emmitt Smith joined the huddle.
A short gain for 3 yards got the blood running of every football fan on earth. This is it. This is the drive. This is history.
Emmitt took the next handoff, hit the hole, bounced off a tackle, picked up a block, and stumbled off of the outstretched arm of a Seahawk. In typical Emmitt Smith fashion he placed his right hand on the turf just long enough to regain his balance and propel himself forward… into immortality.
Emmitt Smith had become the NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher.
#22: Emmitt Smith
The career of Emmitt Smith far transcends what normal human beings are capable of doing. His accomplishments stretch almost as far as his career yardage total. They include:
- 8-Time Pro Bowl Selection (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999)
- 4-Time First-Team All-Pro Selection (1992, 1993, 1994, 1995)
- 4-Time NFL Rushing Leader (1991, 1992, 1993, 1995)
- 4,409 Career Rushing Attempts (Most All-Time)
- 349 Playoff Career Rushing Attempts (2nd All-Time)
- 164 Career Rushing Touchdowns (Most All-Time)
- 19 Playoff Career Rushing Touchdowns (Most All-Time)
- 175 Career Touchdowns (2nd All-Time)
- 21,579 Career Yards From Scrimmage (2nd All-Time)
- 1,586 Playoff Career Rushing Yards (Most All-Time)
- 201 Games Played (5th in Franchise History)
- 3-Time Super Bowl Champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)
- 1993 NFL MVP
- Super Bowl XXVIII MVP
- Member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team
- Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, Class of 2005
- Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2010
- NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher – 18,355 yards (17,162 with Dallas)
It’s fitting that the number 22 belonged to both Bob Hayes and Emmitt Smith. Two twos compromise 22, and the two of these 22s took it all the way to the Hall of Fame… say that five times fast!
Bob Hayes set the foundation of greatness for the number 22, but Emmitt catapulted it into immortality. It is for that reason that Emmitt Smith is, and will forever be, the Greatest 22 in Dallas Cowboys History.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 21 in Dallas Cowboys History is!