Mack Herron: Small in Stature, Big in Talent
The Boston Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week was small in stature, but during his brief time in the NFL played like a giant.
Mack Herron stood only 5'5" and a half inches tall and weighed in around 170 lbs. In an NFL full of oversized men, he looked like a boy among men. However, in 1974, no player stood taller.
Originally drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft after playing college football at Kansas State, Herron spent three seasons as a standout runner in the Canadian Football League before joining the New England Patriots in 1973.
Initially used primarily as a return specialist, Herron led the NFL with 1,092 kickoff return yards in 1973 while averaging 26.6 yards per kick.
He also returned punts and saw some action as a running back and receiver out of the backfield. He finished the season ranked second in the NFL with 1,839 all-purpose yards.
In 1974, Herron became a featured member of the New England backfield. The backfield combination of 6'3" Sam Cunningham as the fullback and Herron as the halfback gave the Patriots the strangest looking, yet most effective, duo in the league.
Herron led the Patriots with 824 yards rushing while Cunningham was right behind with 811 yards.
As a multi-purpose player, Herron enjoyed one of the finest seasons ever by an NFL player (regardless of size). In addition to his rushing total, which ranked ninth in the league, he caught 38 passes for 474 yards and scored 12 combined touchdowns.
Still a dangerous return man, Herron finished second in the league in punt return yards and his 14.8 yards per return ranked fourth.
Overall, Herron’s total of 2,444 all-purpose yards broke the previous NFL record set by Gale Sayers in 1966. His total remains the most-ever in a 14-game NFL season and still is the sixth highest single-season total in NFL history.
The following season, Herron's small stature and the constant pounding of the NFL started to catch up with him. He saw action in seven games for the Patriots before being traded to Atlanta, where he appeared in four games.
Though his NFL career lasted only three seasons, Herron will always have a place in NFL history as one of the best little men ever to play the game.
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