10 Best Small NFL Players of All-Time
In the world of NFL football, where colossal behemoths clash on the gridiron, one might think that size is the sole factor that determines success. After all, the mere sight of towering giants, flexing their muscles and causing tremors with each thunderous hit, is enough to make anyone believe that small players would be mere specks on the field. But as the saying goes, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”
In the annals of NFL history, the league has witnessed a wide range of shapes and sizes, proving that greatness can manifest itself in various forms. Among a long list of NFL legends, there have been a number of players who defied expectations by harnessing their diminutive stature as an advantage. These pint-sized powerhouses have mesmerized fans with their electrifying speed, elusive moves and sheer determination.
In this article from Bovada Sportsbook, we’ll take you on a journey through NFL history with a list of the league’s 10 best small players of all-time. From lightning-quick halfbacks to crafty receivers and tenacious defensive dynamos, these smaller-than-life heroes have left an indelible mark on the sport, proving that in the realm of NFL football, greatness knows no boundaries.
10.Jack Shapiro – 5’1″
Shapiro played fullback for the NFL’s Staten Island Stapletons all the way back in 1929. He may have played just one game in his NFL career, but any player who made it on to an NFL field at 5’1” deserves a mention on this list. Shapiro is the shortest player to every play in the National Football League and even made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest NFL player of all-time.
9. Tarik Cohen – 5’6″
A dynamic spark plug of an NFL running back, Tarik Cohen redefined expectations with his electrifying play on the gridiron. Standing at a just 5’6″, Cohen’s compact size did little to hinder his larger-than-life impact on the field. Known for his blazing speed and elusive moves, he was a true Swiss Army knife for his team. Beyond his physical talents, his infectious energy and unwavering determination made him a natural leader on and off the field. Cohen’s ability to excel in multiple facets of the game showcased that greatness transcends stature.
8. Jacquizz Rodgers – 5’6″
Jacquizz Rodgers, the compact NFL halfback, defied expectations with his relentless determination and versatile skill set. Playing at a modest 5’6″, Rodgers showcased that size was no hindrance to making a significant impact on the field. His ability to contribute in both the rushing and passing game made him a valuable weapon for his teams. Rodgers’ legacy as an undersized rusher serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit that lies within athletes who refuse to be defined by their physical stature.
7. Maurice Jones-Drew – 5’7″
Measuring just 5’7″, Maurice Jones-Drew defied the odds with his electrifying play on the field during his career with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Nicknamed “Pocket Hercules,” he dazzled fans with his lightning-fast cuts, elusive rushing style and relentless determination. Despite his smaller frame, Jones-Drew fearlessly ran between the tackles, shedding would-be tacklers with his low center of gravity. Jones-Drew’s success showcased that size is no barrier to greatness, leaving a lasting legacy as one of the most dynamic rushers in NFL history.
6. Mark McMillian – 5’7″
As an undersized defensive back in the NFL, Mark McMillian faced a tall task in covering towering receivers. With a fierce competitive spirit, the 5’7” McMillian showcased exceptional speed, agility and an uncanny ability to disrupt passing lanes. Nicknamed the “Mouse that Roared,” he fearlessly matched up against bigger opponents, utilizing his quickness and instincts to make game-changing plays. McMillian’s legacy serves as a reminder that heart, skill and unwavering determination can overcome physical limitations, solidifying his place among the most inspiring smaller cornerbacks in NFL history.
5. Antoine Winfield Sr. – 5’9″
Despite standing at a modest 5’9″, Winfield Sr. showcased that size was no barrier to success in the NFL. Known for his fierce competitiveness and unmatched football IQ, he became a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. With lightning-quick reflexes and exceptional coverage abilities, he shut down receivers far taller than him. Winfield Sr. fearlessly threw himself into every play, delivering bone-jarring hits and consistently making game-changing plays throughout his 14-year NFL career.
4. Darren Sproles – 5’6″
Standing at a mere 5’6″, Sproles defied conventional expectations with his remarkable speed, agility and versatility. Nicknamed the “Human Joystick,” he left defenders grasping at air as he weaved through the chaos with lightning-quick cuts and breathtaking acceleration. Sproles’ diminutive stature only fueled his determination. Whether as a dynamic rusher or a dangerous return specialist, Sproles will forever be remembered as one of the most exciting small players in NFL history.
3. Steve Smith – 5’9″
As a ferocious wide receiver in the NFL for 16 seasons, Steve Smith shattered the notion that smaller players couldn’t excel on the outside. At a compact 5’9″, Smith’s stature belied his unrivaled tenacity on the field. Nicknamed “Smashmouth Steve,” he fearlessly battled against towering cornerbacks, refusing to be outmuscled or outmatched. His aggressive playing style and unwavering competitiveness struck fear into the hearts of defenders, proving that size was no match for heart, skill and a burning desire to prove doubters wrong.
2. Bob Sanders – 5’8″
Bob Sanders, the pocket-sized powerhouse of an NFL safety, defied expectations with his ferocious style of play. Standing at just 5’8″, Sanders possessed a compact frame that belied his immense impact on the field. Despite injury setbacks, Sanders’ impact on the Indianapolis Colts’ defense during their Super Bowl run in 2006 was undeniable. His tenacity and unmatched intensity helped him to win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2007, proving that greatness truly comes in all shapes and sizes.
1. Barry Sanders – 5’8″
A legendary NFL running back, Barry Sanders proved that greatness knows no height restrictions. Measuring in at a relatively modest 5’8″, Sanders showcased an otherworldly combination of speed, agility and vision that propelled him to become one of the greatest backs in NFL history. Despite his compact stature, Sanders dazzled fans with his jaw-dropping moves, leaving defenders grasping at thin air as he effortlessly juked his way through the chaos. His ability to change direction on a dime, coupled with his explosive bursts of speed, made him a nightmare for opposing defenses. His electrifying performances, highlighted by his eight Pro Bowl selections and his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, solidified his status as a true icon of the game.