This Is the Smallest NFL Player of All Time, By Volume

Get out the calipers, boys
This Is the Smallest NFL Player of All Time, By Volume

In a game like American football, size is generally an advantage. Sure, theres positions where you can be shorter than ideal and hope you get the complimentary adjective “shifty,” but its better to be big. Big and fast, if possible. Some positions have all but hard outs on anyone of diminutive stature. Offensive and defensive line, for example, is not a great place to be lacking mass. Quarterbacks under six feet are viewed as fragile mice, having to try to catch a glimpse of throwing lanes from between their centers legs. But every once in a while, a little guy beats the odds, and is a feel-good story for the ages — an inspiration to short football kings everywhere.

Of course, height isnt the only measurable that matters in a contact sport: Theres also weight. Combine a solid build with a short stature, and youve got a dense little fire hydrant of a man thats a real pain in the shins to bring down. It can be especially beneficial at the running back position, which, surprise surprise, is where were going to spend most of our time today. 

So, lets combine the two, and find which NFL player, if lowered into a graduated cylinder, would displace the least water!


“Were bigger than them, which is a good sign.”

One other small caveat: Ill be sticking to the Super Bowl era. There was a 5-foot-1 player named Jack “Soupy” Shapiro, who played a single snap for the Staten Island Stapletons. Between the single snap and the fact that its from an era of football where no one had realized you could throw the ball yet, I dont think hes worthy of this tiny, tiny crown. So again, I’ll only be looking at pros who played from 1967 onward.

At the lowest end of the height spectrum are two men tied at 5-foot-5: Trindon Holliday of the Broncos, and recent draft pick Deuce Vaughn of the Dallas Cowboys. This gives them an early lead, but with just one extra inch, five new men enter the fray: Jakeem Grant, J.J. Taylor, Jacquizz Rodgers, Tarik Cohen, and most peoples go-to tiny Hall of Famer, Darren Sproles. Depending on their weight, they might have a claim here, especially Grant since hes a speedy wide receiver, not needing to stay stout between the tackles. 

In a pseudo-scientific way, though, let me calculate their volumes by multiplying their height by their weight. Is that how volume works? Not really, but this isnt a medical journal. So I will record here their height in inches times their weight in pounds resulting in a new unit I have invented called a Player Volume Unit, or PVU (player measurements from Pro Football Reference):

So far, our winner, not too surprisingly, is Trindon Holliday, who also happens to be the shortest. Of course, if Im going to do a stupid, completely flawed investigation like this, I have to double-check my work, so I also looked for a list of the lightest players of all time, to see if some string bean might, in fact, be able to come out on top via pure svelteness despite height. I looked through an additional list of the smallest NFL players ever, not only sorted by height, and reviewed it for anyone who had significantly less weight at an additional inch or two. A few contenders, and in fact, a champion, popped up: Tony Jones, a wide receiver for the Houston Oilers and the Atlanta Falcons from 1990-1993. 

His height of 5-foot-7 saved him from my earlier sample, but his feather-light body weight (142 pounds) cannot go unnoticed, resulting in a PVU of 9,514.

Fleer/SkyBox International

So there you have it: The smallest NFL player by volume, using made-up math that doesnt matter or make sense. Since Im already this far down the pseudoscience rabbit-hole, though, I realized Id underestimated the slim reapers of the world quite noticeably, and that there were more that rivaled or defeated Trindon Holliday in smallitude. A little more “math” gave me the weights necessary to beat Holliday, depending on height. Five-foot-seven players needed to be roughly 157 pounds or less. Five-foot-eight players needed to be under 155 pounds. For 5-foot-9, they have to come in at 152 pounds or under, and this is where I think we can make a cutoff based on football players being generally healthy human beings.

To that end, here are some honorable, remarkably narrow mentions:

If youre thinking, god, what a load of horseshit this was: Youre welcome.

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