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Former Olympian, Cowboys WR Hayes dies at 59

Hayes was golden receiver for Cowboys

Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Rev. Jackson, Staubach honor Hayes at funeral
Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Bob Hayes was remembered Wednesday as a man who "fought a tough fight'' in his struggle to emerge from the segregated South and earn recognition as one of the best athletes of his generation.

He was first-class citizen of the United States, but a second-class citizen at home.
Rev. Jesse Jackson

Hayes, an Olympic gold medalist and NFL receiver once known as "the World's Fastest Human'' was eulogized at a funeral in his hometown of Jacksonville, the once-segregated city that took decades to recognize Hayes' greatness.

"He was first-class citizen of the United States, but a second-class citizen at home,'' the Rev. Jesse Jackson said.

A number of his former Dallas Cowboys teammates and fellow sprinters from the 1964 Olympics attended. They remembered him for the amazing athlete he was, for the obstacles he overcame, and for the personal troubles he tried to solve once the cheering stopped.

"He was a great man,'' ex-Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach said. "He fought a tough fight, was a great athlete and had a great heart.''

"Bullet Bob,'' as he was known, died last Wednesday at age 59 of kidney failure. He also battled liver ailments and prostate cancer.

To this day, Hayes remains the only athlete to win an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring. He won two golds at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo -- the 100 meters and as part of the 4x100 relay.

Before his career took off, Hayes was subject to the laws of the deep South designed to keep whites and blacks apart. It took him decades to find the appreciation he always sought from his hometown.

After he retired from football following an 11-year career -- the first 10 with Dallas -- Hayes struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and spent 10 months in prison. He was bitter about never being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Last year, Hayes said he wanted to be alive when he was finally inducted, something he thought would happen eventually. He didn't get that wish, although his friends vowed to continue to fight for his enshrinement.

"We are going to work as hard as we can to get him in his rightful place in Canton, Ohio,'' said former Cowboys teammate Calvin Hill.

A U.S. Olympic team flag was draped over Hayes' gray coffin. The inside of the casket was embossed with a blue star, the Cowboys' logo.

Hayes won instant fame through his performance in Tokyo, when his time of 10.05 in the 100 tied the world record. He anchored the winning relay team to a world-record time of 39.06 seconds. His relay split, estimated by some at 8.6 seconds, is still viewed as one of the most remarkable bursts of speed anyone has ever seen.

Hayes, who had 71 career touchdown receptions, reached the apex of his NFL career during the 1971 season, when he helped the Cowboys win their first Super Bowl title.

"He changed the game in a broader sense, because be brought the element of speed,'' Hill said. "You went man on man against Bob Hayes and he would run right past you.''

Indeed, Hayes' speed forced coaches to change the way they thought about the game. Zone defenses, previously unheard of, were created to stop the first-of-his-kind receiver.

Despite his accomplishments, many believe Hayes is not in the Hall of Fame because of his drug conviction. He was serving his prison sentence right around the time he became eligible for the Hall.

Times have changed, however, and when Rev. Rudolph W. McKissick Jr. told the crowd of about 2,000 mourners that it was time to right a wrong, he got wild applause.

"If indiscretion is the reason for keeping people out, you should shut it down, shut it down, shut it down,'' McKissick said of the Hall.

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