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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

Illustration by Sam Woolley
Illustration by Sam Woolley

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Email Drew here. Buy his book here.


Darren Sproles got concussed last week, and it was sad not just because all vicious head shots are now terrifying, but because Sproles is one of the most enjoyable players in football. Hating Darren Sproles would be like hating pizza. As long as I live, I will never stop loving any little fast dude who turns into a dog-track bunny the moment he gets his hands on the football. The fact that Deshazor Everett went for Sproles’s head when his guard was down makes me wanna hunt him down and shit in his oatmeal. Darren Sproles is adorable. Leave him alone.

I have no scientific proof of this, but I believe every team needs to have at least one little fast dude to return kicks, play the slot, and/or catch passes out of the backfield on third down. There’s a reason that the current two best teams in football employ a Weslian Beasdelker-type who can slip between monster linebackers and get cheap yards after the catch. There’s a reason the Patriots always have a little dude on hand to catch wheel routes out of the backfield that seem to go for 50 yards a pop. It’s not about GRITTITUDE of SCRAPPIFICATION. It’s about having someone on your team that defenses aren’t accustomed to handling. Your average NFL coach just chucks up a stupid fade route every time they hit the red zone. With a little fast dude on hand, you can swing him out into the flat and force defenses to choose between coming up to stop him, or hanging back and giving him open space to run. You can be creative, and creativity is good for teams and fans alike.

But this isn’t really about strategy. This is about me, as a fan, deriving great pleasure from watching a dude shorter than me make guys twice his size look stupid. There’s an obvious connection between fans and players like Sproles. You get to daydream and be like, “Hey, if a little dude like that can juke those guys out, maybe I can!” who is patently untrue but doesn’t SEEM that way in the moment. The whole “gym rat” cliché is strong, even if these are world-class athletes, and even if Wes Welker himself has openly groused about being perceived as someone who needed to work extra hard to make up for a lack of raw talent (the man was talented as shit).

So with that in mind, let’s remember some guys under 5’ 10” who could really scoot, starting with the best of them all:

  1. Barry Sanders. Still the king. No other player has brought fans as much joy. I root for a divisional rival and even I adored Barry Sanders. Only one other person on this list gave everyone the pleasure of watching a little fast dude be an every-down wrecking ball. By the way, I mentioned those depressing Cordell & Cordell radio ads here a while back, and reader Rod wrote in: “I work for KNBR in San Francisco and I wanted to tell you that we run spots for Cordell & Cordell and there is one that is voiced by Barry Fucking Sanders and he talks about how he got screwed in his divorce. It makes me sad every time I hear it and I’ve heard it over one hundred times.” Christ. That IS sad. I only want happiness for Barry.
  2. Marshall Faulk. He did third down shit on EVERY down! It was awesome! More teams should have a once-in-a-lifetime freakshow who is fast enough and durable enough to do literally everything you ask of him. (NOTE: Faulk is formally listed as 5’10” but I smell bullshit.)
  3. Steve Smith, as lionized here.
  4. Warrick Dunn. Not only was Dunn lovable on the field, but he’s also a genuinely wonderful person. It makes you wonder how he ended up playing for Florida State. HEY-OOOOOOOOO.
  5. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, who belongs up here for his nickname alone. We need more modern play players who have cool nicknames formalized in quotation marks, like White Shoes and Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Ratings would go up a whopping .0003% if Marcus Peters were Marcus “Red Panther” Peters or some other fun shit like that.
  6. Welker. I think I’ve already praised him enough up above for this lifetime and the next. I feel icky now.
  7. Maurice Jones-Drew. MJD was one of those players whose butt was a perfectly acceptable conversation topic. It was like talking about Kirby Puckett’s butt. DAMN, LOOK AT THE POWER IN THAT GUY’S BUTT! THAT GUY HAS SOME STRONG BUTT ACTION!
  8. Sproles.
  9. Az-Zahir Hakim. The only good moment Dennis Miller had as a Monday Night Football announcer was when Az took one to the house with Torry Holt escorting him, and Miller was like, “They don’t need a football, they need a baton!” The rest of his MNF career was insufferable, but he got that one right. Az Hakim was fucking electric.
  10. Kevin Williams. Legend had it that Williams could out-squat most of the linemen on the Cowboys roster. I scoured YouTube searching for footage of him doing dead lifts with 16 plates on either side, but came up empty. If you have footage of little Kevin Williams doing some Hercules shit, send it in.
  11. Eric Metcalf. At this point, it’s a Browns tradition to have the kick returner be the only good player on the roster. Metcalf was the prototype for this Lone Good Brown: a speedy utility player trapped in the football hinterlands. Every time he returned the ball, it was like watching a starving man get to eat.
  12. Dave Meggett. I mean, he was fun to watch before we all found out he was a serial rapist. Now it’s all awkward and horrible.
  13. Kevin Faulk, who was the original disposable Pats scatback. Belichick could go into your trash can right now and pull out a 5’ 9” guy who can catch 50 balls a year.
  14. Tim Dwight, who was part of the draft day trade that brought Michael Vick to Atlanta. And yes, he played for New England for one season. If you’re small and white, you WILL end up in New England at some point. Tom Brady is already sending Cole Beasley flower baskets.
  15. Napoleon Kaufman, who was a god at Washington and then suffered a horrifying knee injury. By law, any NFL player named Napoleon must suffer the kind of injury that makes your ass clench when you remember it.
  16. Mel Gray. Watch his NFL ’95 doppelganger on Sega and be mesmerized. He could generate 5,000 yards in Next Gen stats every game.
  17. David Palmer, who belongs in the “Awesome college guy, perfectly good NFL return guy” category with Peter Warrick, Desmond Howard, and a bunch of other guys.
  18. Michael Lewis. Not the writer! Remember Michael Lewis the football guy, who never played college ball and was a literal Beer Man? That could happen to YOU one day, you little Papales of the world! (Just kidding; you’re never gonna amount to anything, but little guys still rule.)

The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

Illustration for article titled The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

 Five Throwgasms

Patriots at Broncos: Technically this is the best game of the week, but it’s gonna be hideously marred by Phil and JEEEEEEM nutting themselves over multiple Manning/Brady rivalry flashbacks. I can’t deal with it. It was bad enough when they praised Manning when he played. Now they’re gonna suck his dick in absentia. SO MANY MEMORIES OF THESE GREAT WARRIORS, JEEEEM! And you say to yourself, “Hey! Now those two guys were good!” And they sure were! I’m gonna listen to Enya during this whole thing instead. I wish Aqib Talib would grab Phil by both nostrils and suplex him.


Bucs at Cowboys: I stand by my prediction that you WILL see Romo out there at some point. And when that happens… oh, people. Oh, what a glorious shitwreck it will be. We’ll be able to subsist on those takes for YEARS. I’m gonna rent a shipping container just to house them all. Skip Bayless will swallow his own tongue.

By the way, here’s a true story: In my personal blogging history, only Cowboys fans have come back to bitch at me about a Why Your Team Sucks entry months and months after the fact, like so:




I swear, it’s just them. Not even Pats fans do this sort of thing. It’s quite a remarkable phenomenon. When those people hop back on the bandwagon once every five years, they get SERIOUS about it.

Lions at Giants: BIRD GLOVE!


If the Lions don’t have a replica Middle Finger Glove for sale in every Michigan-area Dick’s Sporting Goods, they will be missing out on MILLIONS in revenue. I’d wear a bird glove every time I went out driving. ZODIAC MOTHERFUCKER should order twenty of them.


Illustration for article titled The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

Four Throwgasms

Titans at Chiefs: Here’s Skins corner Josh Norman essentially saying his Players’ Tribune ghostwriting team made up details of his childhood:


I’d like to think there were a bunch of Powerade brand managers sitting around a conference room table, furiously brainstorming ideas for the perfect Josh Norman career narrative. “I got it: BOLOGNA! Stolen bologna made him great!”

Illustration for article titled The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

Three Throwgasms

Panthers at Skins: I can’t listen to Jay Gruden talk anymore. He sounds like a handyman explaining why he needs an extra $85 to fish a dead robin out of your gutters. “Well see, what you got there, yeah, that’s a bird carcass. Gonna need a special vacuum to that get that fella outta there. So just, uh, you know, sign here and we’ll get it right out for ya.” If he were my coach, I’d put fake vomit on his car hood.


Packers at Bears: Everyone hates “Wonderful Christmastime,” but I’m here to tell you that “Happy Christmas” is worse. At least “Wonderful Christmastime” is meant to be joyful. “Happy Christmas” is a fucking hippie funeral dirge. I wanna commit double suicide every time I hear it. I can’t watch that Wes Anderson H&M Christmas ad because he uses it at the end. And people keep covering it! Stop covering it! Did you know Andy Williams covered it once? Listen to that poor old bastard get the happiness sucked out of his voice for four straight minutes. For all the good the Beatles did the world, they subjected us to two of the worst Christmas songs ever, and radio stations keep playing them. STOP IT. Stop ruining my holidays with this shit. I’d be merrier listening to “Videotape” by Radiohead.

Raiders at Chargers: They’re gonna put two teams in L.A. in the same location and a grand total of eight people in that city are gonna give a shit. I bet the Chargers move AGAIN within 10 years. They’ll be the El Paso Chargers, and Marmalard will be on his 17th child.


Colts at Vikings

Illustration for article titled The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

Two Throwgasms

Eagles at Ravens: I’ve had just about enough of that Galaxy ad where people are crowded around the Christmas tree trying out their shitty Samsung VR headset (“You gotta try this!” said no grandpa ever). Like it’s some kind of memorable family moment to watch some other jackass in your family put a blindfold on. The point of VR is to avoid all those people. They should depict people enjoying VR in a realistic fashion: naked, and alone, and covered in hot sauce at 3 a.m., with World War III brewing outside. That’s the REAL virtual reality.


 Saints at Cardinals

Steelers at Bengals

Illustration for article titled The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

One Throwgasm

Jaguars at Texans: I watched the Jags last week and marveled at their efficiency when it comes to losing. You ever watch a basketball game and a dude scores 30 but it’s a QUIET 30, like you didn’t realize they had scored so much? The Jaguars are like that, but with losing. They’re not outright comical, like the Jets. They’re subtly terrible, week after excruciating week. When they had a delay of game on the kickoff, it took a second before the announcers were like, “Wait a second, has that ever happened?” That’s how the Jags roll. They are the invisible fuckups.


Also, their helmet decal goes right over the hole in their helmets and it drives me mad. Anyone could peel that sticker off. Could you not account for the hole when designing that decal?


Browns at Bills: Oh look, it’s Jim Brown falling “in love” with Donald Trump because Trump deigned to have a meeting with him. This is what the next four years are gonna look like, people. Trump is gonna sit in that goddamn tower all day and welcome every famous person on Earth to come kiss his ring. And then they’re gonna be like, “We had a good meeting!” while he goes right ahead and puts every crook and lowlife into positions of supreme authority. It’s gonna be great. I can’t wait. Someone dial up a fucking asteroid already.

Rams at Seahawks: You may not have noticed, but the NBC crew in charge of these Thursday Night games changed the FLAG graphic from yellow to black. And I have to tell you that, as a sociologically gullible person, it made a huge difference. Normally, when I see that yellow FLAG graphic flash on the screen, I turn into a bull and start breaking everything in the house. I think NBC producers know how annoying flags are, so they changed the graphic to black so that it’s not so irritating. And it kinda worked! My normal rage levels were down a healthy two percent. Huge improvement for my general health.


Dolphins at Jets

Niners at Falcons

Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall 

Invoke The King Of Hell” by Beast In The Field! FAT RIFFS! SCARY ORGAN MUSIC! EVIL COVER ART! It’s all here, folks. From Thomas:

It’s from a Michigan two-piece band called “Beast in the Field,” entitled “Invoke the King of Hell.” I first saw these guys drunk off my ass at 1 AM at a bar on a Sunday. At first I thought it was weird the guitarist was bringing over 20 amps to set up behind his one guitar and the drum set, but imaging hearing this song standing ten feet away from the stage, blaring these riffs from hell. I felt like that Maxell ad guy, feeling the power of the riff blowing my hair back. I can’t say I’ve ever had a religious experience, but this was probably the closest to that I’ll ever have. This song makes me want to load up on speed, steal a muscle car, and start robbing people at gunpoint. If I was an amateur wrestler or a relief pitcher, this would be my entrance/walk-up song.


Ditto. By the way, never ask questions if your local bar band decides to set up 20 amps. You’re in for a wild ride no matter what happens.

Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week

Illustration for article titled The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

Hey, that Wakeyleaks scandal is hilarious, isn’t it? You have the radio guy for Wake Forest sabotaging his own team when they’re already fucking terrible, feeding tips to the most crooked coach of them all, and possibly other schools! That’s worth a chuckle, right? WRONG. According to SI back page yukster Michael Rosenberg, you should clutch your pearls with great force. 

This is a major scandal, and not for Wake Forest.


Think about this for a second, and you’ll realize it’s not just a joke.

(thinks about it for a second)

Nope. No, still hilarious.

Pure hypothetical here: What if Clemson had used Louisville’s stolen game plan to beat the Cardinals this year, a win that helped land Clemson in the College Football Playoff?


I’d laugh even HARDER.

The ACC can’t minimize this because the victim was “only” Wake Forest.

Okay but... there’s a reason Wake Forest was the place where the radio guy was like, “Fuck this.” Billy Joe Rimjob or whoever does color for Clemson isn’t doing likewise.

If the Patriots got caught doing what Wake’s opponents apparently did, Roger Goodell would take away all their draft choices, starting with pick No. 199 in 2000.


Oh please oh please oh please oh please…

The ACC should have higher standards, though.

Have you met the ACC?

“Your responsibility is to promote fair play,” said one collegiate athletic official. “How can you stand idly by when coaches are accepting game plans surreptitiously?”


The children! Listen man, Bobby Petrino is a shitbag, and Louisville never should have hired him, and they’re CLEARLY lying about his blissful ignorance here. But for decades now, Sports Illustrated has clung to the same reactionary mentality any time a college program isn’t handing out copies of Emily Dickinson poems to every undergrad athlete. We’re long past being shocked by any of this. How can I get worked up over Radioghazi when LSU is gonna eat $9 million of Les Miles’s salary in a state that has no fucking money?

The ACC has a responsibility to protect the integrity of the game.

Dabo Swinney just built a fucking slide.

Wake Forest is not Florida State, just as Vanderbilt is not Alabama… the conference can’t close its eyes and pretend it doesn’t hear Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson screaming.


But that’s exactly what they’ll do. If they can get away with something because people are indifferent, they will.

This is too big, too important. This should not be the end of a small, wacky story. It should be the beginning of a much bigger one.


There’s an odd coda to this take. That tweet from Rosenberg linked up above includes a bunch of angry replies from Twitter user @Thebingochamp, who has STRONG feelings about Michigan property tax assessments.

Illustration for article titled The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

Jesus, Thebingochamp. Leave the poor man’s house alone. Let’s stick to the takes, please.

Curt Schilling’s Facebook Lock Of The Week: Rams (+15)

Meme by Patty Red
Meme by Patty Red

Schilling 2016 record: 6-7-1

Fantasy Player Who Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death

Derek Carr! YOU ASSHOLE! Look at this goddamn box score:


TRUE STORY: My brother played fantasy football for the first time this season. He and I met in the playoffs last weekend, and THIS is what happened. He crushed me. Twenty fucking years and I can’t win a league. God dammit. GOD DAMMIT. I’m genuinely happy for my brother, but I’m gonna tell him to leave the game NOW, on a high note. If you stick around fantasy football too long, it’ll just stab you in the nuts over and over.

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2016 chopping block:

John Fox

Mike McCoy

Sean Payton

Rex Ryan*

Jay Gruden

Jeff Fisher-FIRED!

Ron Rivera

Marvin Lewis

Todd Bowles

Hue Jackson

Gus Bradley*

Chip Kelly

Bill O’Brien

Chuck Pagano

(*-potential midseason firing)

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am at the prospect of the Rams replacing one tired retread with ANOTHER tired retread and pretending that tired retread is hip and desirable.


I enjoyed watching Jeff Fisher fail as much as the next guy, but watching Josh McDaniels fail again after he gets a thousand “Josh McDaniels has learned stuff just like Belichick did!” slobjobs all offseason will be even MORE fun. I give him four games before he morphs back into Denver Josh, cutting Todd Gurley and putting Keith Elias Jr. back there instead.


Great Moments In Poop History 

Reader Tim sends in this story I call BREAKFAST AT POOPANY’S:

I went back to my alma mater for an Alumni Ultimate Frisbee Tournament. I am fully aware of how lame that sentence sounds.

Anyway, this past weekend, I came into town and me and a few other friends went to Waffle House to eat. My friend Jared kept talking about what an “awesome deal” it was to get the Triple Serving of Hash Browns because toppings were only 50 cents each and the whole feast would be $3.

Being the pig that I am, large quantities of cheap food could not be passed up. I ordered the triple with ham and sausage gravy in the name of “carbing up for the tournament.” I ate the sloppy, semi-warm pile of soggy potatoes and loved every fucking bite.

All was good until the morning of the tournament. A couple of friends and I were driving together to the fields, when all of a sudden, a large, warm bubble kicked it’s way into my lower intestine. I squeezed my ass together in attempt to block the inevitable, but the power of the hash browns was too great.

I demanded that we pull off somewhere because I was “going to shit my pants soon.” We pulled off between a McDonalds and a gas station. I went for the McDonalds, which was the closest, and waddled inside, still clamping my ass cheeks together as hard as I could. As soon as I entered, I heard the sound of the only stall door closing, and a gentlemen sitting atop the thrown. He exhaled loudly, which meant that he would not be finished soon.

I paced back and forth in silent distress, deciding if I wanted to shit my pants or shit in a non-stall location. I opted for the latter. I ripped my pants down and took a massive, steaming, muddy water shit in the fucking urinal of McDonald’s. To make my urinal dump even more obvious, my bum let out a loud, gun-shot fart before the flood started.

The door into the McDonald’s bathroom had no lock and I was fully prepared to shoo people away mid-dump. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. I pulled up the pants, waddled across the street, and finished the rest of my shitting at the gas station. Each toilet-paper wipe looked like I was cleaning out the microwave after someone put chicken soup on for 10 minutes and just let it explode.

I played the rest of the day shit-free, until the final game of the tournament. My team had their hands in, about to give a rousing pump-up chat before we played, and then, without any explanation, I left the team, walked to my car, and peeled out of the field parking lots. I was going to shit my pants, yet again, if I didn’t find a bathroom.

Well, I didn’t. I pulled off on the side of the road, and shit next to a substation. There I was, a man in his mid-20's, shitting in the street, catcher-style. What had my life become?

There was a walking path near me, by the way, and you can bet your ass there were people enjoying a stroll before they saw a pale ape moaning as I took a semi-painful diarrhea-shit on their beautiful infrastructure.

I pulled up my pants, again, went to the gas station down the road, finished shitting, and wiped.

I am never eating Waffle House again.

After reading this, I looked around for a proper slang term for shitting in a urinal, just as “upper decker” is the proper term for shitting in the tank. But I can’t find anything. It’s very disappointing. There should be a name for it, like “The High Horse,” or “The Bank Shot,” or “The Reverse Cowboy.”


Gametime Snack of the Week

Illustration for article titled The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

Mortadella! Give someone a bologna sandwich and they’re like, “What is this white trash kiddie shit?” But give them a mortadella sandwich and they start swooning like Mario Batali. No one is stealing that shit from Josh Norman. All it takes is a couple of pistachios and visible fat hunks and suddenly your bologna is high class. You should see me when my wife buys mortadella and brings it home. I act like she struck fucking oil.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Illustration for article titled The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

South Pacific Export! From Papua New Guinea! YES PAPUA NEW GUINEA HAS BEER. From Brian:

I give you the Radler. The answer to life’s most important question, “what would happen if I made an Arnold Palmer and instead of sweet tea I used shitty lager brewed in Papua New Guinea?” I picked up this 6 pack for 15 Kina ($4.75) and got a free pair of flip flops! Score. I feel like the Cubs must feel right now. At 2% alcohol, you’ll literally get diabetes from this beer before you get drunk. But damn if it don’t go down smooth on a blistering day in the jungle.


I would buy that if it came with free flip flops. New Guinea has some really nasty terrain. You need the extra footwear to traverse those mangrove swamps. By the way, Radler is a German shandy, a cycling drink: beer and Sprite mixed together in unholy matrimony. And it’s DELICIOUS, even though it doesn’t come close to getting you drunk enough. They should put Radler in every Gatorade bucket during NFL games just to loosen the players and coaches up. I MUST SEE IT.

Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week! 

Illustration for article titled The Greatest Little Fast Dudes In NFL History

“Ugh… ergh… Christ, my feet are achin’…

(takes off shoe)

(baby possum runs out)

“Not AGAIN. Sprinkle of Drano is supposed to keep those guys outta my shoes.”

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Browns Fans

Hell Or High Water. They should make this movie 30 times a year. Just get some decent actors and give them dirty facial hair and stick them in the middle of Buttfuck Texas with a beat-up car, and have them shoot at each other and gamble and drink and crack inappropriate jokes for two hours. BOOM. Quality movie. It’s not rocket science, people. I don’t need superhero movies when I have Ben Foster sitting up on a ridge with a sniper rifle, muttering “Sheeeeet” before picking off a few rangers.


Gratuitous Miller’s Crossing Quote

“Well, if it’ll make him feel any better, tell Lazarre he can send someone by to break my legs. I won’t squawk.”


Enjoy the games, everyone.

Drew Magary is a Deadspin columnist and columnist for GEN magazine. You can buy Drew's second novel, The Hike, through here.