IRVING -- Before he died, former Dallas Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm called the omission of Cowboys legendary speedster Bob Hayes from Pro Football Hall of Fame "one of the most tragic stories I’ve ever been associated with during my time in professional football."
This tragedy still might end in triumph.
The seniors committee nominated Hayes and Claude Humphrey, who played the majority of his career with the Atlanta Falcons, as finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame today.
It’s the second time Hayes has been nominated by the senior committee. But in 2004 he did not get the required 80 percent vote for induction.
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He has a rare second chance, thanks largely to a groundswell of support that has grown to an outrage over the years regarding the omission of a player who by all accounts changed the game.
Hayes, who played for the Cowboys from 1965-1974, was an Olympic gold medalist as a sprinter.
Hayes was denied entry into the Hall of Fame in the past because of his less than gaudy reception totals. But the numbers don’t tell the story about Hayes, who had 365 career receptions for 7,295 yards and 71 touchdowns. He averaged 20 yards a catch for his career and led the NFL in punt returns in 1968 with a 20.8-yard average.
His mere presence forced defenses, which played almost exclusively man to man, to resort to zone coverages.
Hayes died in 2002 at the age of 59. He got the satisfaction of finally being inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2001.
Now it looks as if he could end up in his rightful place, the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hayes and Humphrey will join 15 modern-era finalists yet to be determined in the final selection on Jan. 31, the day before the Super Bowl in Tampa.
The two seniors finalists are voted on separately. A total of seven players can be elected — the two seniors and up to five modern candidates.