The Fastest Player in the History of Each NFL Franchise
Of the many qualities needed to be successful at certain positions (wide receiver, running back, cornerback) in the game of football is speed.
There are several teams that had several individuals who could turn on the jets when needed. Unfortunately, there was room for just one spot on this list of the fastest player from each NFL franchise.
This is a group of players that could easily leave opponents in the dust. But as you will see amongst this group, speed doesn't always result in a productive career.
Atlanta Falcons: Deion Sanders
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"Prime Time" could get up to speed in no time.
The electric and multifaceted Sanders ran track at Florida State in addition to playing football and baseball. In the 1989 NFL combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds.
Deion's quickness helped him be a shutdown cornerback, as he intercepted 53 passes during his career—24 of them coming while with the Falcons.
He also starred on offense and special teams.
In all, the eight-time Pro Bowler compiled 7,838 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns—cruising into Canton this past August.
Arizona Cardinals: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
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Far from a household name coming out of college, Rodgers-Cromartie stood out in the 2008 NFL combine when he posted a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash.
The former high school sprinter has been one of the game's top cornerbacks ever since. After three seasons donning the colors of the Cardinals, Rodgers-Cromartie is showcasing his fast feet and blanket coverage in Philadelphia.
Baltimore Ravens: Fabian Washington
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Washington lettered in track and basketball, in addition to football, while attending Bayshore High School. As a senior, he was the district champion in the 100-meter race and ran a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash.
He shaved that time by .04 seconds in the 2005 NFL combine.
The cornerback from Nebraska was drafted by Oakland, spent three seasons with the Ravens and signed with the New Orleans Saints on July 31.
Buffalo Bills: O.J. Simpson
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Before trying to outrun the police on June 17, 1994, Simpson made a living out of leaving defenders breathless.
As well as capturing the Heisman Trophy at the University of Southern California, Simpson was a member of the school's 4x100-meter sprint relay quartet that broke the world record at the NCAA Track Championships in June 1967.
The Buffalo Bills made a wise choice by drafting him No. 1 overall in 1968. Five years later, O.J. would be the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season.
Carolina Panthers: Raghib Ismail
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"The Rocket" had his best years when he played with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Professionally, his performances weren't as stellar, as he bounded around from the NFL to the CFL and back.
Nevertheless, his speed didn't diminish when he joined the Carolina Panthers via trade. In 1996, Ismail had just 214 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. He improved one year later, recording 419 yards via the air with two trips to pay dirt.
The 1998 campaign was by far his best year in Carolina: 69 catches for 1,024 yards and eight TDs.
Chicago Bears: Willie Gault
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Willie Gault played his first five NFL seasons with the Bears and was the team's deep threat in its passing game.
A true speed demon, Gault was part of the 1985 club that won Super Bowl XX. In that championship contest, he had four catches for 129 yards.
Prior to his pro football playing days, Gault was a multi-medal-winning track star. He would have participated in the 1980 Summer Olympics had the U.S. not boycotted the games.
Even at age 50, his speed hasn't worn off. Gault recently set world records in the 50-54 age group in the 100- and 200-meter dash.
Cincinnati Bengals: Tommie Smith
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There's no question that Tommie Smith's claim to fame was his Black Power salute (along with teammate John Carlos) on the winner's podium after winning the gold medal in the 200-meter dash with a record time of 19.83 seconds in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
That symbolic moment of the civil rights movement obviously overshadows the fact that he gave the NFL a shot just one year later.
His career in pro football was short-lived, as he had a total of one reception for 41 yards.
Cleveland Browns: Eric Metcalf
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Eric Metcalf played for seven different teams in his NFL career, but his days with Cleveland showcased him as an elite kick returner in the 1990s.
The son of the equally notable Terry, Eric not only had great speed but incredible elusiveness as well.
In 1990, he led the NFL league in kickoff return yards and touchdowns. Metcalf also contributed at running back and wide receiver.
Dallas Cowboys: Bob Hayes
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Bob Hayes waited many years for his call to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He would have no trouble making the list of the fastest players ever to play the game. In fact, he may very well be at the top of it.
"Bullet" Bob, during his athletic peak, was arguably the fastest man in the world. He set the world record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.08 seconds at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Hayes won a second gold medal when the U.S. captured the 4x100-meter relay—also in record time.
Despite lacking complete talent as a football player, the Cowboys selected him in the '64 draft. In 10 years with Dallas, Hayes proved the skeptics wrong. His 7,295 yards ranked fourth in franchise history. However, his 70 touchdowns and 20.0 yards per catch average are team records.
Hayes finally reached induction into the Hall of Fame in 2009, albeit posthumously.
Denver Broncos: Champ Bailey
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The Washington Redskins were the first club to enjoy Bailey's quickness, especially after seeing that he ran a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash at the 1999 NFL combine.
Washington then traded the star cornerback, along with a second-round draft pick, to Denver in exchange for RB Clinton Portis.
It's safe to say the Broncos have been pleased with the exchange.
Bailey has been named an All-Pro six times and has 48 interceptions. His ability to keep up with some of the top wideouts in the game has made him a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
Detroit Lions: Mel Gray
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In six seasons with Detroit, Mel Gray made the Pro Bowl four times—thanks primarily to his abilities as a dynamic kick returner.
Noted for his blazing speed, Gray completed his 12-year career with nine touchdowns and retired in 1997 as the NFL's all-time kick returner.
Green Bay Packers: James Lofton
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In the dark days of the Green Bay Packers, James Lofton was the lone bright spot. His long stride and quick step made him a fine track athlete at Stanford University.
That translated well to the NFL. Lofton spent 16 seasons as a pro receiver—nine of them with Green Bay. There, he had 9,656 yards and 49 touchdowns. Those rank second and third, respectively, in the long history of the Packers.
Houston Texans: Trindon Holliday
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His 4.27 time in the 40-yard dash at the 2010 NFL combine was the latest impressive performance in a track-related event.
As a sprinter at Louisiana State, Holliday qualified for the 2007 World Championships but chose not to compete due to the conflict with football season. One year later, he reached the semifinals in the 100-meter event at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Indianapolis Colts: Eric Dickerson
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It took a gold medal-winning runner to prevent Dickerson from being the fastest man to suit up for the Rams.
A 1987 midseason trade to Indy brought his speed to the Colts and put them on the inside track to an AFC East title.
Dickerson's quickness made him nearly impossible to be caught from behind and helped him set the single-season record for rushing yards.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Brian Witherspoon
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The fourth-year cornerback out of Stillman allegedly ran a 4.16 in the 40-yard dash once.
Unfortunately, his numbers in game action aren't nearly as impressive. Primarily used as a kick and punt returner, Witherspoon had his most productive year with the Jags in 2008.
That season, he had 1,342 total return yards on 69 attempts.
Kansas City Chiefs: Dante Hall
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Hall had just a few seasons in the spotlight. But in those seasons, he regularly burned opponents at wide receiver and, more significantly, as a kick/punt returner.
A member of the NFL's All-Decade Team from the 2000s, Hall put together 12 return touchdowns and 12,397 total return yards—both still among the all-time leaders.
Miami Dolphins: Ted Ginn Jr.
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What Dante Hall did for a brief period in Kansas City, Ginn is trying to do with the 49ers.
But prior to his current stint in San Francisco, the former Ohio State star made himself one of the fastest players in football while with the Dolphins.
After an impressive time at the NFL combine, Ginn is trying to make sure that was no fluke on the playing field.
He hasn't reached his full potential as both a wideout and a returner. However, some of his runs have shown that he hasn't slacked off in terms of speed.
Minnesota Vikings: Randy Moss
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One can certainly make a case for current Viking Percy Harvin, but it's hard to forget what Randy Moss did in his early years with Minnesota.
In his rookie season (1998), Moss led the league with 17 touchdowns and had 1,313 receiving yards. He played 113 games in the purple, scoring 92 times and averaging 15.9 yards a catch.
Many teams didn't want to draft Moss due to his off-field issues. However, the Vikings took a chance late in the first round and hoped that his insane talent (including his 4.25 40-yard dash time) would outweigh his baggage.
For the most part, they were right.
New England Patriots: Stanley Morgan
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The fastest player in the history of the New England Patriots is also the team's all-time leading receiver with 10,352 yards on 534 receptions. He used his breakaway speed to find the end zone 67 times during his time in Foxborough.
Morgan was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and helped lead the Pats to an appearance in Super Bowl XX.
New Orleans Saints: Devery Henderson
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If you saw Devery Henderson's TD reception against the Chicago Bears last Sunday, you know what we mean.
He attended LSU on a track scholarship and had to try out for the football team. Fortunately for Henderson, he qualified for the latter as well.
With the Saints, he has established himself as one of many key contributors to one of the best vertical passing games today.
New York Jets: Justin Miller
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The winner of the NFL's 2007 Fastest Man competition, Miller came to the Jets as a second-round pick in 2005 out of Clemson.
In his first two seasons, Miller was stellar as a return specialist. He had three touchdowns and posted an average return of 28.2 yards. The 2006 season was good enough to earn Miller a Pro Bowl selection.
A season-ending knee injury in 2007 has derailed what could have been a fine tenure as one of the NFL's top return men.
New York Giants: Dave Meggett
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On a 1990 Giants team that won Super Bowl XXV and featured more brute than zip, Dave Meggett was the contrast to Otis Anderson in the backfield.
Unfortunately for Meggett, he is now going nowhere fast as he serves a 30-year prison term for the rape and robbery of a woman in Charleston, SC.
Oakland Raiders: Bo Jackson
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It's a shame that we have to narrow it down to just one Raider, especially when you consider the burners that have worn the silver and black, including Cliff Branch, Willie Gault, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Jones.
With a franchise full of fleet feet, the crown goes to the winner of the 1985 Heisman Trophy.
Jackson has the best verifiable time at an NFL combine with a 4.12-second effort in the 40-yard dash in 1986.
Quite simply, Bo knows speed.
In a shortened football career that was cut short due to a hip injury, the two-sport icon compiled 2,782 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick
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It's only fitting that Michael Vick is the lone quarterback to make this list.
His ability to scramble and shift into high gear is something that's never been seen before at his position. That ability has been showcased at Virginia Tech, then with the Atlanta Falcons and most recently in Philly.
Along with DeSean Jackson, the Eagles currently have the fastest team in the league.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ike Taylor
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It was a close one with Hall of Famer Mel Blount as well as current teammate Mike Wallace, but the Steelers star cornerback gets the nod here.
Taylor was drafted 125th overall by Pittsburgh as a relative unknown. Now, thanks to his quickness, we all know what he can do.
That was displayed when training for the pros eight-and-a-half years back, when he consistently ran blistering 40-yard dash times.
San Diego Chargers: Lance Alworth
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Arguably the greatest receiver in the short history of the AFL, Alworth was the perfect player for the league's all-out air attack.
In nine years with San Diego, Alworth had seven seasons in which he compiled more than 1,000 yards receiving and had five seasons that saw him finish with at least 10 touchdown catches.
His graceful speed and agility (also displayed when he was a track star in college) helped earn him the nickname "Bambi."
San Francisco 49ers: Renaldo Nehemiah
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Before taking on the challenges of the gridiron, Nehemiah was a world-class hurdler in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, he was the first man to run the high hurdles with a time less than 13 seconds.
The 49ers took a chance on Nehemiah in 1982 amidst plenty of publicity. However, his tenure as a wide receiver didn't go nearly as well as his efforts on the track. In three seasons with San Francisco, he grabbed 43 passes for a total of 754 yards (17.5-yard average) and four touchdowns.
Seattle Seahawks: Joey Galloway
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Before being chosen eighth overall in the 1995 NFL draft, Galloway wowed each team with his fast moves.
This could come as no surprise to anyone who saw him play at Ohio State on the football field and on the track in high school. As for the latter, he captured first place in the state of Ohio in both the 100- and 200-meter dash representing Bellaire High.
Unofficially, he ran a 4.18 40-yard dash time while at Ohio State.
In his rookie year with the Seahawks, Galloway set the franchise rookie record for receptions (67) and receiving yards (1,039).
St. Louis Rams: Ron Brown
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In two stints with the Los Angeles Rams that totaled seven seasons, Brown caught 98 passes for 1,791 yards and scored 13 times.
He also made a name for himself in L.A. for what he accomplished representing the U.S. In the 1984 Olympics, Brown won the gold medal running the second leg on the 4x100-meter relay that set a world-record time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joey Galloway
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The only player that made this list for two different franchises, Galloway's third NFL stop lasted a total of five seasons.
In that time with Tampa, he had three seasons of more than 1,000 yards receiving and helped the Bucs make the playoffs on two occasions.
Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson
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The East Carolina University product got off to a good start in the NFL when he tied the top mark for the fastest time in the 40-yard dash at the league's rookie combine (4.24 seconds) in 2008. That helped him become the 24th overall selection by the Titans.
In just three years, he has made himself one of the top running backs in the game (not to mention one of the richest players). The 2009 season proved to be a memorable one for Johnson, as he became just the sixth man in league history to rush for more than 2,000 yards.
Washington Redskins: Darrell Green
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Darrell Green proved his worth—and his speed—right from his initial days in the NFL.
The first time he ever touched the ball as a pro in 1983, he returned a punt 61 yards in a preseason contest against Atlanta.
He remained a stable and talented piece of the Redskins secondary for the next 20 seasons. Green regularly won the NFL's Fastest Man competition and was able to consistently chase down running backs and receivers who were considered uncatchable.
It's no surprise that he made a quick entrance into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2008.
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