Danny Woodhead and the NFL's Toughest Little Fellas Ever
In pro sports, the terms big, small, short, or tall are subjective.
We might see a guy on the street and think he is huge, and he might be one of the smallest guys on his team.
In order to make this list you have to be or have been considered diminutive for your position and you have to also be or have been considered a tough SOB.
This isn't a list of the best small guys, but the toughest. As you will see, most of these guys take or took a lot of hits.
So, in honor of Danny Woodhead, winner of the college Division II version of the Heisman Trophy, Monday Night Football touchdown scorer, the Patriots new pinball, and a former Jets castoff...
Here is the list.
Honorable Mention: Drew Brees
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Brees gets a shout-out because he has won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award and a Super Bowl MVP.
He takes hits in the mouth and gets back in there.
He was cast off by the Chargers, and the Dolphins said no thank you when everyone thought his career was over because of his shoulder injury.
Anytime your bio includes a visit from Dr. James Andrews and success afterwards, you know the guy is tough.
But since he might be 6'0" on a good day, and there have been quarterbacks that height who have done work, he only gets an honorable mention.
10. Doug Flutie
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The original short quarterback. Flutie played football wherever and whenever he was needed.
From winning the Heisman at Boston College to making the Pro Bowl in 1998, Flutie excelled at every level—even though he was constantly being told that he couldn't.
He won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award and several MVP awards while playing in the Canadian Football League.
His Wikipedia page lists him at 5'10", but I'm not so sure about that. He was listed anywhere from 5'6" to 5'10" during his playing days.
9. Bob Sanders
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Sanders can't stay on the field because he does what he does so well, hit.
He was the NFL 2007 Defensive Player of the Year because he makes such an impact on the game, literally and figuratively.
But the two-time Pro Bowler just keeps getting hurt. Maybe a 5'8", 200-pound body isn't supposed to take that much punishment.
Fortunately, it has no impact on him being one of the toughest little guys ever.
Ask some of the guys on the other end of his crushing tackles.
8. Joe Morris
When you think of tough little guys, you have to think Joe Morris.
At 5'7", he was the lead back for the Giants during their Super Bowl run of 1987.
He put together several 1,000-yard seasons and scored close to 50 touchdowns for the G-Men, and is still considered one of their best-ever backs.
7. Wayne Chrebet (tie)
People usually know only a handful of stuff about Wayne Chrebet's career.
1) He played college ball at Hofstra, and not many NFL players do that.
2) Keyshawn Johnson, his New York Jets teammate at the time, called him out for getting ball too much in his book, "Throw Me the Damn Ball."
3) Chrebet was only around 5'9".
4) For a few years, Chrebet was the main guy that the Jets went to over the middle.
Wes Welker is pretty much Chrebet 2.0.
And that should be a compliment to both men.
Take that, Keyshawn.
7. Wes Welker (tie)
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Because Chrebet was his predecessor, I left Welker off this list initially.
But by popular demand here is the Patriots lil super hero.
Some people criticized him for crying when he ripped up his leg last year.
I think it wasn't because he wasn't tough. It was because he loved his team so much.
If you count the hits he takes over the middle, you would know how tough he is.
6. Zach Thomas
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Most say he was closer to 5'10", he says he is 5'11".
I wouldn't argue with the man because he was a hard-hitting linebacker who played with a chip on his shoulder.
He is a Dolphins legend and was invited to the Pro Bowl seven times.
He was also voted onto the 2000 All-Decade Team.
I wonder if there is a list of how many times he made the first hit during his career as a middle linebacker.
5. Maurice Jones-Drew
There are a lot of running backs who have played in the past or play now who could be listed at 5'9" and under.
This was a tough choice among guys like Dave Meggett, Warrick Dunn, Frank Gore, and MJD.
I went with Jones-Drew because the guy looks and plays like a battering ram.
At 5'7", he is as short or shorter than the other running backs I named.
He might be the shortest guy on the list.
And possibly the most powerful.
4. Steve Smith (tie)
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*Mistakenly left off the list initially.
Smith is one of the toughest receivers ever.
He plays in pain. Plays with broken limbs, and never lets his opponents know about.
He fights for every ball. And will literally fight you if he is done wrong. Even if you are a teammate.
He will even let his quarterback know if he sucks. But he'll deliver the news gently.
Ask Jake Delhomme.
Definitely one of the toughest little hombres ever.
4. Sam Mills (tie)
Sam Mills made the All-Star team in a league that doesn't even exist anymore.
He is on the USFL All-Time Team, as well as being a five-time Pro Bowler.
The Carolina Panthers retired his No. 51, and I'm sure someday soon the New Orleans Saints will as well.
At 5'9", Mills was one of the best and hardest-hitting linebackers of 198's and 1990s.
RIP Mr. Mills.
3. Steve Tasker
At 5'9", Tasker would've found it tough to get on the field as a starting wide receiver, so he made the most of time as a special teams player, earning seven Pro Bowl invites and a Pro Bowl MVP.
No one gets into more crazy collisions than a full-time special teams player.
So imagine what it took to be the best at it every year.
2. Barry Sanders
The man averaged close to 300 carries per year for 10 years. And at 5'8", he figured out a way to not take most of the crushing hits that running backs take.
He left the game with over 15,000 yards and 99 touchdowns.
If he wanted, he could have set the rushing records so high that no one would have touched them.
Never rushed for fewer than 1,000 yards a season. Never had fewer than 4.3 yards per carry.
The craziest thing about his career is most of the time you knew he was getting the ball.
Who else were the Lions going to give it to?
1. Emmitt Smith
NFL all-time leading rusher at 5'9"? Check.
Focal point of an offense that won three Super Bowls in four years? Check.
Carried the team and ball for 168 yards and caught 10 passes in the same game to clinch the division in a crucial game? Check.
Doing all that with a first-degree separated shoulder?