Top Shortest NFL Players Ever – Complete Guide

list of the shortest nfl players ever

The NFL is known for its physically imposing players, but there are some who have defied the odds and made a big impact on the field despite their smaller stature. In this article, we will take a look at the top shortest NFL players ever and explore how they have overcome height challenges in professional football.

Key Takeaways:

  • There have been several notable petite NFL athletes who have excelled in the league despite their small stature.
  • Height limitations in NFL players have not stopped these undersized football players from achieving great success on the field.
  • Players like Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren Sproles, and Tarik Cohen have defied expectations and become diminutive NFL stars.
  • Despite the height disparity in NFL rosters, these players have proven that compact size can still lead to greatness in professional football.
  • The NFL continues to evolve, providing support and opportunities for players of all sizes to thrive.

Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars) – 5′ 7″

Maurice Jones-Drew - Shortest NFL Player Ever

Maurice Jones-Drew, who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, is one of the shortest players to have played in the NFL, standing at 5′ 7″. Despite his small size, Jones-Drew had a successful career in the NFL, leading the league in rushing yards in 2011 and becoming one of the top 50 all-time leading rushers. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl three times and made the NFL All-Pro first team.

Despite being one of the shortest NFL players, Maurice Jones-Drew proved that size doesn’t always determine success on the field.

Darren Sproles (Philadelphia Eagles) – 5′ 6″

Darren Sproles - Shortest NFL Player

Darren Sproles, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, is another one of the shortest players to have played in the NFL, standing at 5′ 6″. Sproles had a versatile career, excelling as a running back and return specialist.

Despite his petite stature, Sproles made a significant impact on the field. He was selected to the Pro Bowl three times and was an essential part of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl LII victory. Sproles defied expectations with his size and became a role model for shorter players in the NFL.

“Don’t let your size limit your dreams. It’s about heart, dedication, and a willingness to put in the work. You can achieve anything you set your mind to, regardless of your stature.”Darren Sproles

Listed below are some of Darren Sproles’ career highlights and achievements:

Pro Bowl SelectionsThree times (2014, 2015, 2016)
Super Bowl VictoryWon Super Bowl LII with the Philadelphia Eagles
Yards from ScrimmageOver 19,000 yards

Despite his smaller stature, Darren Sproles’ impact on the field cannot be underestimated. His agility, speed, and determination made him a valuable player throughout his career. Sproles proved that size is not the only determining factor in success, inspiring other petite NFL athletes to chase their dreams and prove their worth on the gridiron.

Tarik Cohen (Chicago Bears) – 5′ 6″

Tarik Cohen - shortest NFL players

Tarik Cohen, who played for the Chicago Bears, is another standout among the shortest NFL players. Standing at 5′ 6″, Cohen has defied expectations and made a significant impact on the field.

In 2018, Cohen had a breakout season, gaining recognition as one of the league’s top players. He was selected to the First Team All-Pro and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl. Cohen’s versatility as a running back and receiver has been instrumental in the Bears’ offense, providing a dynamic presence on the field.

What sets Cohen apart is his agility, speed, and playmaking ability. He possesses a rare combination of quickness and elusiveness, making him a challenging player to defend against. Standing at just 5′ 6″, Cohen has shown that size is not the sole determinant of success in the NFL.

Off the field, Cohen has become a fan favorite and a source of inspiration for aspiring athletes of smaller stature. He serves as a role model for petite NFL athletes, proving that with determination and skill, anyone can thrive in professional football.

“Tarik Cohen may be small in stature, but his impact on the game is anything but. His speed and agility make him a nightmare for defenses to handle. He’s proven that size doesn’t matter when it comes to making big plays.” – NFL analyst

Trindon Holliday (Denver Broncos) – 5′ 5″

Trindon Holliday

Trindon Holliday, who played for the Denver Broncos, is the second shortest player to have played in the NFL, standing at just 5′ 5″. Despite his petite stature, Holliday made history in the NFL with his exceptional speed and agility.

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Holliday achieved a remarkable feat by being the only player to have a punt return touchdown and a kick return touchdown in a postseason game. His ability to evade defenders and change direction with lightning-fast speed made him a standout player on the field.

Despite his smaller size, Holliday’s impact on the game cannot be overlooked. His performance showed that size is not the sole determining factor of success in the NFL. Holliday’s career serves as an inspiration to other petite athletes, proving that they can compete at the highest level and make a significant impact.

Trindon Holliday’s remarkable achievements and contributions to the Denver Broncos highlight the immense talent and determination of the shortest NFL players.

Maurice Jones-DrewJacksonville Jaguars5′ 7″
Darren SprolesPhiladelphia Eagles5′ 6″
Tarik CohenChicago Bears5′ 6″
Trindon HollidayDenver Broncos5′ 5″
Jack “Soupy” ShapiroStaten Island Stapletons5′ 1″

Jack “Soupy” Shapiro (Staten Island Stapletons) – 5′ 1″

Jack “Soupy” Shapiro holds the record for the shortest player to have ever played professional football. Standing at just 5′ 1″, Shapiro played one snap for the Staten Island Stapletons, making him a notable figure in NFL history. Although his playing career was short-lived, his presence on the field is a testament to the diversity and inclusivity of the league.

Jack “Soupy” Shapiro, despite his diminutive stature, defied the physical expectations of professional football. His story highlights the fact that size doesn’t determine success in the NFL. Shapiro’s brief but impactful appearance on the field serves as an inspiration to aspiring petite athletes in the league.

The Evolution of the NFL Player

The NFL player has undergone a remarkable evolution over time, transforming from everymen who played both offense and defense to specialized athletes who dedicate themselves to intense training and preparation. With advancements in sports science, the physical attributes of NFL players have changed dramatically, resulting in bigger, stronger, and more specialized athletes in each position.

Today’s NFL players benefit from a comprehensive support system that includes trainers, nutritionists, and medical staff. This holistic approach ensures that players receive the best resources and guidance to maximize their performance on the field. The league acknowledges the importance of training and preparation in shaping the game and the players who participate in it.

“Football is a game of inches and seconds, and every advantage matters. The evolution of the NFL player reflects the commitment to pushing the limits of human potential.”

– NFL coach

Physical Transformation

The physical attributes of NFL players have seen significant changes over the years. The emphasis on size, strength, and speed has become more pronounced, with players constantly pushing the boundaries of human capability. Access to advanced training facilities, sports performance technologies, and cutting-edge strength and conditioning programs has allowed players to develop their physical attributes to the fullest. The evolution of the NFL player also accounts for advancements in nutrition, sports medicine, and recovery techniques, enabling athletes to optimize their physical potential.

Position Specialization

As the NFL has evolved, so has the concept of position specialization. In the early years of the league, players often played both offense and defense. However, as the game became more complex and demanding, the need for specialized skill sets arose. Today’s NFL players focus on mastering the intricacies of their position, honing specific techniques and strategies to excel in their respective roles. Position specialization has not only elevated the level of play but also created opportunities for players with unique physical attributes to thrive in specific positions.

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Training and Preparation

The training and preparation of NFL players have become increasingly sophisticated and comprehensive. In addition to physical conditioning, players undergo rigorous mental and tactical training to enhance their understanding of the game. Film study, practice sessions, and game simulation exercises are essential components of NFL player preparation. The introduction of innovative training methods and technologies, such as virtual reality simulations and data analytics, further enhances player performance and decision-making on the field.

AspectTraining MethodsPreparation Techniques
  • Strength and conditioning programs
  • Athletic training
  • Sports science technologies
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Nutritional guidance
  • Sleep optimization
  • Film study and analysis
  • Mental conditioning
  • Psychological support
  • Game planning and strategy development
  • Situation-specific training
  • Cognitive skill enhancement

The Birth of the Playing Professional

In the early days of football, the sport was primarily played by amateur athletes who participated for the love of the game. However, everything changed with the birth of professional football, led by a trailblazing player named William “Pudge” Heffelfinger.

William Heffelfinger made history in 1892 when he became the first documented professional football player. His groundbreaking journey began when he received a payment of $500 in cash to play in a game, breaking the tradition of amateurism where players were not openly compensated for their participation.

“The birth of professional football can be attributed to William ‘Pudge’ Heffelfinger, who received $500 to play in a game in 1892, becoming the first documented professional football player.”

This marked a significant turning point in the sport, as it laid the foundation for a new era of professionalism and officially introduced the pay-to-play model. With Heffelfinger’s bold move, the concept of playing football for monetary rewards became accepted and, eventually, the norm.

Since then, professional football has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry, with players earning substantial salaries and enjoying a range of lucrative endorsements and sponsorship deals. The birth of the playing professional revolutionized the sport, transforming it from a recreational activity into a fiercely competitive and highly lucrative profession.

This image represents the birth of professional football, symbolizing the moment when William “Pudge” Heffelfinger shattered the amateurism barrier.

Impact of the Birth of Professional FootballKey Features
Shift in the ParadigmTransition from amateurism to professionalism
Financial RewardsIntroduction of player compensation
Industry GrowthDevelopment of a multi-billion-dollar football industry
Player ProfessionalizationEstablishment of football as a competitive and lucrative profession

The birth of professional football not only transformed the game but also shaped the future of sports. Today, the NFL stands as the pinnacle of the sport, showcasing the athleticism, dedication, and skill of professional football players.

A New Era for the Player

The formation of the NFL provided a structure for player recruitment and development. College football emerged as a prominent source for NFL players, attracting top talent to the league. The impact of college football on the NFL has been significant, shaping the league’s landscape and player demographics.

College football serves as an incubator for talented athletes, honing their skills and preparing them for the professional level. The rigorous competition and high-level coaching in college football provide players with the opportunity to showcase their abilities and catch the attention of NFL scouts and recruiters.

Notable college football signings have played a crucial role in elevating the prestige and popularity of the NFL. Harold “Red” Grange, known as the “Galloping Ghost,” signed with the Chicago Bears in 1925, drawing national attention and boosting the league’s profile. Grange’s signing marked a turning point in the public perception of professional football and helped legitimize the sport.

Another famous college football signing was Ernie Nevers, who joined the Duluth Eskimos (later the Chicago Cardinals) in 1926. Nevers’ exceptional talent and impressive performances at Stanford University made him one of the most sought-after players in the NFL. His signing not only generated excitement but also showcased the league’s ability to attract top collegiate talent.

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Benny Friedman, a standout at the University of Michigan, made a significant impact on the NFL after signing with the Cleveland Bulldogs in 1927. Friedman’s success as a quarterback in college translated to the professional level, helping solidify the importance of skilled quarterbacks in the evolving game of football.

The influence of college football on the NFL goes beyond individual signings. The increasing number of college graduates choosing the NFL over continuing their college football careers has led to a shift in the player demographic. With college football serving as a pipeline for NFL talent, the league has evolved into a more professionalized and competitive environment.

The impact of college football on the NFL is evident in the development of players’ skills, the level of competition, and the overall popularity of the sport. The NFL continues to rely on college football as a critical source of talent and looks to college players to contribute to the league’s success.

Notable College Football SigningsYearPlayerNFL Team
Harold “Red” Grange1925Chicago Bears
Ernie Nevers1926Duluth Eskimos/Chicago Cardinals
Benny Friedman1927Cleveland Bulldogs


The NFL has witnessed players of all sizes leave their mark on the field, proving that physical stature is not the sole determinant of success. The list of the shortest NFL players ever showcases the immense talent and relentless determination of these athletes who have defied expectations and excelled despite their smaller stature.

From Maurice Jones-Drew to Trindon Holliday, these players have demonstrated that size should not limit one’s potential in the game. Their exceptional performances and impact on the field highlight the importance of skill, agility, and mental fortitude in overcoming physical limitations.

Furthermore, the evolution of the NFL player continues to progress, with specialized training programs and comprehensive support systems empowering players to reach their maximum potential. These advancements enable players of all sizes to develop their abilities and contribute significantly to their teams.

The future holds even greater possibilities for shorter players to continue making their mark on the game. As the NFL continues to embrace diversity and inclusivity, we can expect to see more petite athletes rise to prominence and defy traditional expectations. The combination of skill, determination, and evolving training methods will empower these players to thrive and cement their place alongside their taller counterparts.


Who are some of the shortest NFL players ever?

Some of the shortest NFL players ever include Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren Sproles, Tarik Cohen, Trindon Holliday, and Jack “Soupy” Shapiro.

How tall is Maurice Jones-Drew?

Maurice Jones-Drew, who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, is 5′ 7″ tall.

How tall is Darren Sproles?

Darren Sproles, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, is 5′ 6″ tall.

How tall is Tarik Cohen?

Tarik Cohen, who played for the Chicago Bears, is 5′ 6″ tall.

How tall is Trindon Holliday?

Trindon Holliday, who played for the Denver Broncos, is 5′ 5″ tall.

How tall is Jack “Soupy” Shapiro?

Jack “Soupy” Shapiro, who played for the Staten Island Stapletons, was 5′ 1″ tall.

How have NFL players evolved over time?

NFL players have become bigger, stronger, and more specialized by position with the support of trainers, nutritionists, and medical staff.

Who was the first documented professional football player?

William “Pudge” Heffelfinger is considered the first documented professional football player, having received $500 in cash to play in a game in 1892.

How has college football influenced the NFL?

College football has become a superior source for NFL players, attracting top talent and leading to a shift in the player demographic and professionalization of the league.

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Baron Cooke has been writing and editing for 7 years. He grew up with an aptitude for geometry, statistics, and dimensions. He has a BA in construction management and also has studied civil infrastructure, engineering, and measurements. He is the head writer of

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