Great literary mind Mark Twain once said, “It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of fight in the dog.”
The NFL may be full of larger than life players, but there is certainly room for the little guys, and these players certainly play by that motto.
Little engine that could Danny Woodhead has helped energize the New England Patriots running attack. He is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and the Pats are tied for the league’s best record at 10-2.
Woodhead has been impressive, but he’s only the newest in a long line of players that have proven great things can come in small packages.
Honorable mentions include Joe Morris (RB), Maurice Jones-Drew (RB), Danny Woodhead (RB/WR), Darren Sproles (RB), Ray Rice (RB), Zach Thomas (LB), Warrick Dunn (RB) and Wes Welker (WR).
Even though he is only 5’8”, Sanders is known as one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the NFL, earning nicknames like “The Hitman” and “The Eraser.”
He has had injury issues throughout his seven-year career, but he is a two-time Pro-Bowler and a two-time All-Pro.
He was named 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was the anchor of the defense that turned itself around and guided the Colts to their victory in Super Bowl XLI.
He’s only 5’9”, but over his 10-year career Smith has been one of the most productive wide receivers in the league, as well as one of the fastest.
Smith’s biggest season came in 2005. A year removed from a broken leg, he returned and won the “Triple Crown” of receiving, leading the NFL with 1,563 yards receiving, 103 receptions and 12 touchdowns. He also won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Smith is a four-time Pro-Bowler and a three-time All-Pro selection.
A Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2007, Thomas has a number of accolades to carry on his 5’10” frame.
He was a five-time Pro-Bowler, a three-time All-Pro selection, an NFL MVP in 1991 and was part of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team.
He spent 12 seasons with the Buffalo Bills (he ended his career with one season in Miami) and is the only player in NFL history to lead the league in total yards from scrimmage for four consecutive seasons. An all-purpose back, Thomas finished with 12,074 yards rushing and 65 touchdowns and 4,458 yards receiving and 23 touchdown receptions.
This 5’7” quarterback was drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1950 and debuted two years later. He would be the team’s starting quarterback through 1959, when after the season he was picked by the Dallas Cowboys in an expansion draft.
In Dallas, he started for two more seasons before becoming the backup to the recently deceased Don Meredith.
LeBaron was known to have a quick release and to scramble. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and is in the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame.
In the two-year gap from the time LeBaron was drafted and he made his debut, he served with the United States Marine Corps in the Korean conflict. He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star and earned the nickname “Little General.”
The 5’10” former Indianapolis Colt and St. Louis Ram was the definition of an all-purpose player. He is the only player in NFL history to have both 12,000 yards rushing and 6,000 yards receiving. He is the only player to have both 70 rushing touchdowns and 30 receiving touchdowns.
Faulk also holds the record for most two-point conversions (seven).
In his 12 NFL seasons, he made the Pro Bowl seven times, was a first-team All-Pro three times and NFL MVP in 2000, and won a Super Bowl.
The Rams retired his jersey in 2007, and this year he is eligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Nicknamed “The Wee One” growing up, Flutie, 5’10”, overcome the stereotype of tall quarterbacks to have a good career in football. He’s more famous for his time in college at Boston College and in the CFL, but he did have success in the NFL as well.
In 12 seasons in the league—his most successful stint being with the Buffalo Bills from 1998-2000—he threw for 12,715 yards and 86 touchdowns.
In 1998, Flutie became the Bills’ starting quarterback five games into the season. He threw for 2,711 yards and had 20 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions. He was selected to the Pro Bowl that season and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year following an eight-season hiatus in Canada.
In 2005, with the Chargers, he became the oldest player to score a touchdown (42 years and 71 days). Then in a game with the New England Patriots in 2006, Flutie attempted and made a drop kick for an extra point. It was the first time it was attempted in a regular-season NFL game since 1941, and Flutie was named Special Teams Player of the Week.
Nicknamed the “itty-bitty guy” and the “Ageless Wonder,” the 5’9” Green spent 20 seasons with the Washington Redskins, tying the record for most seasons spent with one NFL team.
Green amassed 1,159 tackles and 54 interceptions throughout his career. He holds the record for most seasons with at least one interception, picking off a pass in every season except his final one.
He’s a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, a four-time All-Pro, a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and won the Super Bowl twice.
He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2008.
Standing at 5’8”, Sanders is regarded as one of the best running backs in the history of football. The three-time NFL rushing leader is third all-time in career rushing yards. In 1997 he was named co-MVP along with Brett Favre.
He abruptly retired from football following the 1998 season, but he walked away from the game healthy, and in 2004 he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is one of only two players (Gale Sayers) to be inducted while still in his 30s.
Coming out of high school, many thought that at 5’9” Smith was too small and too slow to make an impact on a higher level. He only went on to gain the most rushing yards in the history of the NFL.
His 18,355 yards rushing rank him first all-time, as do his 164 career rushing touchdowns. He’s been to the Pro Bowl eight times, been selected to the All-Pro first team four times, been a Super Bowl champion three times, won a league MVP and a Super Bowl MVP, was named to the 1990s All-Decade Team and was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.
He’s also one of only two non-kickers (Jerry Rice) to score more than 1,000 points in his career.
Before Emmitt broke his records, there was the 5’10” “Sweetness.”
A Chicago Bear lifer, Payton ran for career totals of 16,726 yards and 110 touchdowns. He was incredibly durable, missing only one game his entire 13-year career.
He was the 1977 NFL MVP, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and a first-team All-Pro six times. He also was part of a Super Bowl championship team.
Even though he wasn’t the biggest back, Payton played by the motto “never die easy.” He wouldn’t intentionally run out of bounds; instead he would extend the play and deliver some type of blow to the would-be tackler.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.