While height can be advantageous in football, the lack of height didn’t stop the shortest NFL players ever from reaching their dream of playing in the league. Some of these players even have great and long careers.
Shortest NFL player ever
The common trait that the shortest NFL players ever have is speed. They used their short stature to their advantage to quickly move around the field. These players beat their opponents not with strength, but with quickness and agility.
Here are the smallest NFL players of all time.
10. Andrew Hawkins, 5’7″
After going undrafted in 2008, Andrew Hawkins finally got his chance in the NFL and signed with the Rams in 2011. However, the Rams cut him before training camp. The Bengals then claimed him off the waivers.
Hawkins had a solid season in his second season with the Bengals with 533 receiving yards and four touchdowns. After three seasons in Cincinnati, he then signed with the Browns. There, he posted a career-best of 824 yards and two touchdowns.
9. Maurice Jones-Drew, 5’7″
One of the greatest running backs in Jaguars history, Maurice Jones-Drew always played with a chip on his shoulder since a lot of teams passed on him. His most notable season is in 2011 when he posted a career-best of 1,606 rushing yards while scoring a total of 11 touchdowns.
Jones-Drew spent eight seasons with Jacksonville and holds the record for most career touchdowns with 81. He also earned second-team All-Pro and three Pro-Bowl honors.
8. Mark McMillian, 5’7″
Known as the “Mighty Mouse”, Mark McMillian is the shortest NFL player ever to play cornerback in the NFL. Despite having a short stature, this didn’t stop him from stopping bigger receivers.
McMillian played for the Eagles, Saints, Chiefs, 49ers, and Redskins in his nine seasons in the NFL. It was with the Chiefs, however, where he shined the most with eight interceptions and led the league in interception return yards and scored three touchdowns off those picks. At the end of his career, McMillian had a total of 23 interceptions in the NFL.
7. J.J. Taylor, 5’6″
Listed at 5-foot-6, J.J. Taylor is the shortest NFL player active today. He went undrafted in 2020 but the Patriots signed him as a free agent. There, he carved a role for himself as a running back and return specialist.
Taylor’s career hasn’t taken off yet. Between his rookie and sophomore campaigns, he only played for 11 games where he posted 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
6. Jakeem Grant, 5’6″
Jakeem Grant was selected by the Dolphins in the 2016 NFL Draft as a return specialist. He poses a threat to special teams every week due to his outlandish speed.
The speedster has a couple of highlights already as a kick and punt returner. During his rookie year, Grant caught a 74-yard punt return for his first career touchdown. And in his third year, he had a 102-yard kickoff return touchdown and a 70-yard punt return touchdown. This earned him the All-Pro honors in 2018.
5. Tarik Cohen, 5’6″
Despite being the smallest running back at 5-foot-6, Tarik Cohen impressed scouts and coaches at the 2017 NFL Draft Combine with his blazing speed. This is why the Bears drafted him in the fourth round.
Cohen had an electrifying first two seasons with the Bears, managing to score four touchdowns in his first year and eight touchdowns in his sophomore season. In his second season, he received the first-team All-Pro and Pro-Bowl honors.
4. Jacquizz Rodgers, 5’6″
Listed at 5-foot-6, Jacquizz Rodgers was a college standout with Oregon State University where he won the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year. He was then drafted by the Falcons in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Rodgers was a serviceable running back during his time with the Falcons, rushing for a total of 1,116 yards and scoring a total of ten touchdowns. After four seasons in Atlanta, Rodgers played for the Bears and Buccaneers. He set a career-high in rushing yards during one of his seasons in Tampa Bay.
3. Darren Sproles, 5’6″
The most decorated player on this list, Darren Sproles had an incredible career in his 14 seasons in the NFL. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Chargers. Sproles was then named as the kick returner for the Chargers 50th Anniversary Team.
After five seasons with San Diego, Sproles signed with New Orleans where he broke the NFL’s single-season record in all-purpose yards with 2,696 yards. He was then traded to Philadelphia after three seasons and earned second-team All-Pro, first-team All-Pro, and three Pro-Bowl honors there. To top it off, Sproles finally became a champion after winning the Super Bowl with the Eagles in 2017.
2. Trindon Holliday, 5’5″
Trindon Holliday was drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Texans with a height of 5-foot-5, making him one of the shortest NFL players in history. He was considered the fastest player in college football.
After a tough start in Houston due to a fractured thumb, Holliday was picked up by the Broncos from waivers. There, he made a huge impact as a kick and return punter, setting records in kick return yards, kick return touchdowns, punt returns, punt return yards, and total return yards.
He also played for the Giants, 49errs, Raiders, and Buccaneers and lasted for six seasons.
1. Jack Shapiro, 5’1″
Listed at 5-foot-1, Jack Shapiro is the shortest NFL player of all time. He played just one game in the NFL for the Staten Island Stapletons as a blocking fullback in 1929.
Shapiro started playing football as soon as high school where he was a full-time starter for three years. Still undersized, he decided to play college football. Shapiro attended New York University and played fullback for the Violets in 1927. His team posted a 7-1-2 record while outscoring their opponents by 345-65.
Up until today, 5-foot-1 is the record height of smallest NFL player. Shapiro even received recognition from the Guinness Book of Records in 1999 as the smallest NFL player ever.
Check out the players at the other end of the height spectrum with the tallest players in NFL history.