3 minute read

Bob Hayes

Earns His Degree At Age Fifty-one

For the next decade, Hayes fought his addiction to drugs and alcohol, entering rehab three times before moving back to Jacksonville, Florida, where he lived with his parents and finally earned his degree in elementary education from Florida A&M, at the age of fifty-one. Hayes told a reporter for Jet, "It's a thrill at fifty-one years of age to finally be graduating from college. I think so many people give up and take the attitude that it's not worth it—but they're wrong." He also said, "I take great pride in this accomplishment. I challenge all athletes to get their diploma."

Career Statistics

Rushing Receiving
DAL: Dallas Cowboys; SF: San Francisco 49ers.
1965 DAL 4 -8 -2.0 1 46 1003 21.8 12
1966 DAL 1 -1 -1.0 0 64 1232 19.2 13
1967 DAL 0 0 0.0 0 49 998 20.4 10
1968 DAL 4 2 0.5 0 53 909 17.2 10
1969 DAL 4 17 4.2 0 40 746 18.6 4
1970 DAL 4 34 8.5 1 34 889 26.1 10
1971 DAL 3 18 6.0 0 35 940 26.9 8
1972 DAL 2 8 4.0 0 15 200 13.3 0
1973 DAL 0 0 0.0 0 22 360 16.4 3
1974 DAL 0 0 0.0 0 7 118 16.9 1
1975 SFO 2 -2 -1.0 0 6 119 19.8 0
TOTAL 24 68 2.8 2 371 7514 20.3 71

In addition to his difficulties with drugs and alcohol, Hayes also suffered from liver disease and prostate cancer. Hayes's old friend, fellow track athlete Ralph Boston, told Dwight Lewis in the Nashville Tennessean that he saw Hayes in 2001, "He was in a wheelchair and couldn't walk. He showed me his swollen feet and said, 'Cancer is something.'"

In 2001, Hayes was finally honored by being inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, after being selected by team owner Jerry Jones. A track meet named after him, the Bob Hayes Invitational, hosts more than 25,000 high school athletes each year, and he is a member of the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame. In 2002, he was elected to the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame.

Related Biography: Coach Jake Gaither

Born April 11, 1903, in Tennessee, Alonzo Smith "Jake" Gaither grew up to become a teacher and coach at Henderson Institute in North Carolina. He became an assistant coach at Florida A&M in 1937 and was head football coach from 1945 to 1969. He led his teams to six National Black Championships, won twenty-two conference titles, and produced thirty-six All-American players.

"I like my players mobile, agile, and hostile," Gaither once said, according to a writer in Contemporary Black Biography. However, he balanced this aggressive view with a softer side. Gaither also said, "Kindness is the universal language that all people understand." His players responded to this kindness. Bob Hayes once said that Gaither was "my father, my coach, my friend, my mentor."

Gaither was also innovative on the playing field, elaborating on the T-formation by splitting the offensive line. With his coaching associates, he wrote a book on his tactics, titled The Split Line Offense of Florida A&M, published in 1963.

Gaither was named Small College Coach of the Year three times. He retired in 1969, remaining as athletic director until 1973. In 1975, he became the first coach from a largely African-American college to be inducted into the Football Foundation Hall of Fame.

Gaither died on February 18, 1994 in Florida.

Awards and Accomplishments

1964 Olympic gold medals in 100 meters and 4 × 100-meter relay
1965-67 Member of Pro Bowl team
1972 Dallas Cowboys win Super Bowl
1976 U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame, Florida A&M University Hall of Fame
2001 Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor
2002 Texas Black Sport Hall of Fame

Hayes died of kidney failure on September 18, 2002, in Jacksonville, Florida. Former Cowboys running back Calvin Hill told Teneshia L. Wright in the Florida Times Union, that he believed Hayes's most memorable characteristics, apart from his athletic abilities, were his kindness and humor. "Here was a guy who talked to emperors and kings," Hill said. "Yet he could meet a janitor and make that janitor feel like he's the most important person in the world."

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsTrack and FieldBob Hayes Biography - "to Better The Conditions Of My Family", Wins Gold At 1964 Olympics, Chronology, Plays With Dallas Cowboys