It took the likes of Irvin to deny Hayes the top spot in this list. “Bullet Bob” Hayes set world records and won gold medals in the 1964 Olympics before taking to the NFL, and literally changed the way defense was played.
Hayes’ blazing speed gave birth to zone defense because no one in the NFL could stay with him in single coverage. Hayes played all but one of his 11 seasons in Dallas, and still ranks fifth all-time in franchise history in receiving yards.
Yet, as much of an impact as Hayes had on the game, it took until a year before his death to even get Hayes up onto the Cowboys’ own Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium in 2001 — a full 16 years after he had played his last game. After years of campaigning and controversy, Hayes was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.