For the most part, the NFL is all about size and strength. Teams always want players who can intimidate others with their size and out-muscle their opponents. Even when it comes to quarterbacks, taller players always seem to get more opportunities. However, no matter the rule, there are always exceptions. Plenty of players who most would have labeled as too short or too small have emerged as bonafide stars. Let’s look at some of the NFL stars who have proven that size isn’t everything.
Thanks to his lack of size, Welker went undrafted, but he proved time and time again that he could succeed in the NFL despite his small stature. If anything, his size made him more difficult to defend than most slot receivers. At the peak of his career, Welker had over 100 catches five times in a six-year span, leading the NFL in receptions three times. From 2008 to 2012, he went to five straight Pro Bowls and was undoubtedly one of the league’s best wide receivers of any size.
Nowadays, tall and lanky defensive backs are coveted, making the 5’8’’ Sanders a complete outlier. Of course, you wouldn’t know Sanders was that size by the hard hits he supplied on unsuspecting receivers. While injuries hindered him for much of his career, he was a First-Team All-Pro safety twice and won Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2007. Sanders also had a forced fumble and an interception in Super Bowl XLI.
Compared to an ordinary person, Donald isn’t the least bit undersized. But for a defensive tackle in the NFL, being 6’1’’ and 280 pounds is considered tiny. However, Donald has proven that even in the trenches, size isn’t everything. He’s plenty strong and uses his quickness to be disruptive. Donald won Rookie of the Year honors and has been a Pro Bowler every season of his career. He’s also won Defensive Player of the Year twice and will likely go down as one of the best linemen in NFL history.
The list of successful NFL quarterbacks shorter than six-foot is awfully short. On that list, Wilson is by far the best. Being 5’11’’ is the biggest reason why Wilson wasn’t drafted until the third round. But he’s turned out to be one of the best quarterbacks of his generation. Wilson won a Super Bowl in his second season, has been to a Pro Bowl nearly every season, and could end up winning an MVP at some point. His intelligence and mobility and more than made up for his lack of height and could eventually make Wilson a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback.
At 5’6’’, Sproles might be the best little man in NFL history. While usually a complementary player, he spent well over a decade in the NFL and consistently made an impact as a rusher, receiver, and kick returner. He went to three Pro Bowls and still holds the NFL record for most all-purpose yards in a single season. For a long time to come, Sproles will be a success story that undersized players can dream of emulating.