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Size Matters Less Than Talent In The NFL

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Darren Sproles has been sticking to doubters in the NFL for many years (Photo: Parker Waters).Darren Sproles has been sticking to doubters in the NFL for many years (Photo: Parker Waters).

With the 2012 NFL Draft finally here, everybody has put such a huge emphasis on measureables.

Every team is seeking the big 6'3 cornerback. A 6'2, 225 pound running back monopolizes the top of every team's draft board. A 6'4 receiver is considered a"game changer." Too much is made over a player's height. The old saying "you can't measure the size of a person's heart" still holds true.

Jack "Soupy" Shapiro stood just 5 feet and 1/2 inches tall, claiming the title as the shortest player to ever don an NFL uniform. The 119 pounds specimen played in one game only in 1929 for the Staten Island Stapletons.

But the NFL has featured quite a few game changers throughout the history of the league that were 5-foot-8 or shorter. Some even landed a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Here is proof of my statement.

Dalton Hilliard spent seven seasons in the NFL, all with the New Orleans Saints, finishing his illustrious career as the team's 3rd all-time leading rusher with 4,164 yards, 2nd all-time in rushing touchdowns (39) and completed his year's at LSU as the school's leader in carries with 882 and second in both yards with 4,050 and rushing touchdowns with 44. Hilliard measured in at a compact 204 pounds on a 5-foot-8 frame. Many had considered him "too small" to make it in the NFL. He made the 1989 Pro Bowl.

Joe Morris, a 5-foot-7 running back, played 10 seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns. Morris' resume in the NFL was impressive with 5,585 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns. He also surpassed hall of famers Jim Brown, Larry Csonka and Floyd Little on the Syracuse all-time rushing charts. Joe was a vital part of the New York Giants when they captured Super Bowl XXI.

Cornerback Pat Fisher roamed the NFL field for 17 seasons with the Si. Louis Cardinals and Washington Redskins as a three-time Pro Bowler, finishing his career with 56 interceptions after arriving as a 17th round draft choice in 1961. Fisher measured 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds on a good day.

RB Mack Herron played 4 NFL seasons shared between the Falcons and Patriots after earning All Conference while at Kansas State. Tackling Herron (5-foot-4 1/2-170) was like trying to grab a ping-pong ball in the bathtub.

Nolan"Super Gnat"Smith from Jackson, Mississippi was a sixth round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1967. The 5-foot-7 return specialist went onto to lead the AFL in kick returns in '67. He still owns a club record of 106 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Buddy Young seemed to always play with a chip on his shoulder due to his 5-foot-4, 167 pound frame. He played from 1947-55 in the All-America Football Conference before it was absorbed into the NFL in 1950. He was the first black player in NFL history. The"Bronze Bullet",as he was known, played without hip nor thigh pads. His helmet was void of a facemask. He excelled in college while at Illinois, tying many of his predecessor's, Red Grange's records. He was called an acorn among oaks.

Quarterback Eddie LeBaron (5-foot-7, 168) was a 10th round in the NFL in 1950 and one tough hombre after serving as a lieutenant in the Korean War, wounded twice, awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Known as"the Little General," he played 12 NFL seasons serving as the starter for the Dallas Cowboys in their first three seasons in existence.

Lionel "Little Train" James (5-foot-6, 171) out of Auburn University shared the backfield with Heisman winner Bo Jackson. James later led the AFC in receiving yards by a running back in 1985 and all purpose yards with 2,355. He totaled 345 all-purpose yards in a single game against the Raiders and put up 319 against the Cincinnati Bengals. In the game against the Bengals. James had an 89 kick return called back that would have put him over the 400-yard mark.

Electrifying Clarence Verdin (5-foot-8, 160) played at ULL, before going on to 10 productive seasons (Colts, Falcons and Redskins) in the NFL. He led the league in returns on 3 occasions and helped the Washington Redskins capture Super Bowl XXII as a member of the "Smurfs" receiving corps. Before that, he was a primary target of Jim Kelly while with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL. Clarence earned a spot in three Pro Bowls and was recognized as the fastest player in the NFL at one time with a 4.2 forty.

Gerald "Ice Cube" McNeil stood 5-foot-7, 145 pounds also playing for the Houston Gamblers (with Clarence Verdin), along with the Houston Oilers and Cleveland Browns of the NFL. He was the first player ever in the NFL to return a kickoff and punt for scores in a single game in 1986.

Current Blatimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is a Pro Bowler who could be considered undersized at 5-foot-8, 212 pounds.

How about Maurice Jones Drew at 5-foot-7 and 210 pounds? Confronting him on a football field is like trying to tackle a mailbox. He wears jersey #32 for one simple reason; he was chosen in the 2nd round of the 2006 NFL draft. Since all 32 teams bypassed him in round one, he reminds himself each time he puts on that jersey that he needs to prove to someone that he deserves to be where he is.

Veteran cornerback Darrell Green played 20 seasons in the NFL , all with the Washington Redskins. He played in a pair of Super Bowls ,as well as 7 Pro Bowls . Green was renown for his blazing speed. As proof of his roadrunner type skill, he turned a 4.46 forty at age 50 at a recent Pro Bowl event.

The shortest New Orleans Saint of all-time ? Try Howard Stevens (5-foot-5, 165) who was a 16th round choice of the Saints in 1973 after compiling 2,723 career yards on 509 carries (5.3 yard average) with 25 touchdowns throughout his two-year stint at Louisville. Stevens paced the NFL in 1974 for kickoff and punt returns with 2,336 yards.

Former LSU Tigers return man Trindon Holliday (5-foot-5, 165 pounds) is a lethal threat with the Houston Texans thanks to world class 10.02 hundred meter speed.

Sam Mills was a great. Although his program size indicated that he was 5-foot-9, I stood next to him enough times to know that he would have to be standing straight with the help of shoes to reach that level. Former Saints head coach Jim Mora called him the "best player that he ever coached."

Safety Bob Sanders (5-foot-8, 205) was a second round pick of the Colts in '05 before proving worthy of that selection with a reputation as one of the more devastating tacklers in the game today. He is now with the San Diego Chargers entering his ninth NFL campaign.

Barry Sanders, at 5 '7-165 in high school, many schools didn't give him a 2nd look. He won the Heisman while at Oklahoma State. During his 10 years in the NFL , Sanders averaged 300 carries per season and 1,500 yards. He retired with quite a bit of tred still left on his tires, 1,400 yards shy of becoming the all-time leading rusher in NFL history. While with the Detroit Lions, he teamed with QB's Andre Ware, Rodney Peete and Erik Kramer, a trio you would hardly call passing threats. Yet he still managed to stack up huge chunks of yardage against defenses designed to stop him.

And probably the biggest argument for undersized players in today's game is Darren Sproles of the New Orleans Saints. At 5-foot-6, 190 pounds, Sproles set an all-time , all purpose NFL record in 2011. He is said the be, pound-for-pound, one of the strongest players in all of the NFL. Sproles was 10 1/2 pounds at birth.

So now that I have given you a little history lesson as to why you need to look beyond a player's measureables, here is a gander at a few "undersized" players that are available for this year's NFL draft. For this allotment of players, I've decided to stretch the height to 5 '9" or shorter.

-5-foot-9 Jerico Nelson out of Arkansas and Destrehan High School Considered in the top 10-12 safeties in this draft.

-5-foot-9 cornerback Brandon Boykin is rated in the top 5-6 at his position.

-5-foot-7 receiver James Rodgers out of Oregon State, brother of current Atlanta Falcon Jacquizz Rodgers.

-5-foot-8 Damaris Johnson out of Tulsa and Destrehan High School (prep teammate of Jerico Nelson and LSU QB Jordan Jefferson) set an NCAA all purpose record of 7,796 yards despite missing his senior season.

-5-foot-9 WR Eric Page out of Toledo. As a sophomore, he made 99 catches for 1,105 yards and eight scores. (Career Stats: 306 catches, 3,446 yds. and 25 TDs in three season).

-5-foot-7 1/2 Marquis Maze from Alabama with 4.5 speed. A playmaker at receiver, he is also solid punt return specialist.

-5-foot-9 Devon Wyle from Fresno State . a 39"vertical and 4.39 forty. 56 grabs for 716 yards in 2011.

-5-foot-9 T.Y. Hilton from FIU was freshman of the year in Sun Belt Conference. Wound up with 229 catches- 3,531 yards and 24 scores.

-5-foot-9 Jarius Wright out of Arkansas with 4.42 speed. 168 career grabs, 2,934 yards and 24 touchdown's.

-5-foot-8 1/2 Patrick Edwards from Houston racked up 282 catches for 4,471 yards and 43 touchdowns for his career.

-Jeffery Demps (5-foot-8 1/4-183) with blazing 4.28 forty speed is a running back/Olympic sprinter.

-Jewel Hampton (5-foot-8-210), running back out Southern Illinois, was originally at Iowa. In 2011, he had 1,121 yards and 17 touchdowns.

-Bobby Rainey (5-foot-7-208) Western Kentucky school's all-time rusher with 4,452 yards and 35 touchdowns.

-Rodney Stewart (5-foot-6,-178), RB from Colorado. He runs a 10.7 hundred. In 2010 had 1,318 yards and 10 touchdown's. in '11 totaled 854 yards despite missing two games.

-Michael Smith (5-foot-8 1/2-206) from Utah State. Excellent receiver and return specialist.

-Chris Rainey (5-foot-8 1/2-175) Florida. With a 4.41 forty.224 all purpose yards in the 2010 Allstate Sugar Bowl.

-Davin Meggett (5-foot-8-208) Maryland, son of former Giants RB Dave Meggett.

-Edwin Baker (5-foot-8-210) RB from Michigan State. Did 20 reps on the bench. Left Spartans after Jr. year. Had 1,201 yards and 13 touchdown's in 2010.

-Ronnie Hillman (5-foot-8 1/2-198) San Diego State complied 3,243 yards and 36 touchdown's last 2 seasons. Broke Marshall Faulk's freshman records with Aztecs.

-Doug Martin (5-foot-9-220) Boise State is a top 4-5 rated RB in this draft. 28 reps on the bench press test (225 pounds) outstanding runner and receiver.

A player considered the best at his position and should go in this year's top five overall picks, running back Trent Richardson. is being hailed as a franchise-type player and only stands a shade over 5-foot-9. Size shouldn't matter.

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