FAMU alumnus Bob Hayes, a track and football star in the 1960s who went on to a successful career with the Dallas Cowboys, died of heart failure Wednesday night in his hometown of Jacksonville.
Hayes, who battled with prostate cancer and liver problems over the past year and a half, was 59.
Hayes was a dual sports star at FAMU from 1960-1964. He was inducted into the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame in 1976. He was also a member of the USA Track and Field, Florida and Texas Halls of Fame. He became the 11th member chosen to the Cowboys Ring of Fame in September 2001.
Hayes won a Super Bowl ring in 1972 with the Dallas Cowboys and still holds the distinction as the only man in history with a Super Bowl ring and an Olympic gold medal.
The medal was one of two that Hayes won at the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo. He was the 100-meter winner tying the then world record of 10.05 seconds and anchored the 4×100 relay team to a world record 39.06. Hayes ran an unimaginable split time of 8.6. That performance earned him the title of “World’s Fastest Human.”
Earlier that year, the Cowboys drafted Hayes in the seventh round. In his rookie season in 1965, he had 1,003 yards receiving, 12 touchdowns and averaged 21.8 yards per catch, leading the NFL.
Hayes’ speed garnered him the affectionate nickname “Crow” throughout the East Jacksonville community because he was black and he could “fly.”
Earl Kitchings, Hayes’ football coach at Gilbert, said their relationship grew into a lifelong friendship after Hayes graduated high school. “He was one of the top athletes I ever coached and I have nothing but admiration for him,” Kitchings said. “It hurt him that he didn’t make it to the hall of fame and it hurt me because I coached him.”
There is a growing sentiment that Hayes has not been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of off-the-field battles with drugs and alcohol. In 1979 Hayes served 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to a drug trafficking charge.
After moving back to Florida in the mid 1990s, Hayes received his degree in elementary education from FAMU in 1994.
James Day, the athletic director at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, has organized the Bob Hayes Invitational Track Meet since its inception in 1964.”We’ve been together for 39 years,” Day said. “He loved people and would give up his shirt for anybody. All he had to do was wave to the crowd and they would get excited. He had that kind of electricity with the community.”
The Rattler football team wore No. 22 on their helmets Saturday against Delaware State in memory of Hayes and will do so for the remainder of the season.
Coach Billy Joe met Hayes while they were competing track athletes in college. Joe was a shot putter at Villanova University while Hayes ran for FAMU.
“He was a legendary figure and a fine individual,” Joe said. “There won’t be a more dominant figure in FAMU’s future. When you hear Bob Hayes you think of FAMU and when you hear FAMU you think of Bob Hayes.”
N’Gia Timmons can be reached at email@example.com.