By Mike Duprez
Somewhere, somehow an NFL scout must be drooling at the thought of Usain Bolt catching long touchdown passes.
There's nothing wrong with dreaming. Bolt is the fastest human being in history, he's a freak of nature at 6-foot-5 and if he could just be taught how to catch the football, who could possibly cover him? ESPN's Chris Berman would call him Usain "Lightning" Bolt.
Bolt may never play in the NFL, but the idea of a world-class sprinter doing such a thing is not unprecedented.
The best known sprinter who played in the NFL was Bob Hayes, a double gold medal winner in the 1964 Olympics (100 meter dash and 4x100 relay). Of course, Hayes wasn't strictly a sprinter. He did also play football at Florida A&M, but track was clearly his best sport in college.
Winning two gold medals put Hayes at the top of the track world and perhaps he could have won more gold in 1968. But the Dallas Cowboys had other ideas, drafting Hayes in the seventh round of the 1964 NFL draft.
By anyone's account, Hayes had a great career with the Cowboys, even if he didn't catch 80-100 passes a season. Using his great speed as a weapon, Hayes averaged 20 yards a catch on an average of 37 catches a season for 10 years. Hayes caught 71 touchdown passes and made the Pro Bowl three times. He was also inducted into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor.
One sprinter who wasn't quite as successful was Renaldo Nehemiah of the San Francisco 49ers, though it's unfair to categorize his NFL stint as a failure as some have. There's a big difference between Hayes and Nehemiah, who was never a football player. But the 49ers thought enough of him as an athlete to give it a try.
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