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Published: July 17, 2015 at 11:27 a.m.
Updated: July 17, 2015 at 01:59 p.m.

Small Size, Big Impact: Best short guys in NFL history

Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man hits theaters this week, but the film’s lead superhero isn’t the only one who can pack a big punch at a small size. Although football is often considered a sport reserved for larger-than-life athletes, even the smallest of players can have a big impact. In anticipation of the film’s upcoming release, we take a look at some of the greatest undersized players in NFL history.

11 Photos Total

  • After a stellar three seasons at Oregon State University, Rodgers in the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2011 NFL Draft. In four seasons with the Falcons, Rodgers' balance of strength and speed has made him a promising change-of-pace back. Despite getting limited touches, the Texas native has made the most of his opportunities, recording at least one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown each season. (Chris Keane/Associated Press) 11

    Jacquizz Rodgers - 5' 7" - Running Back

    After a stellar three seasons at Oregon State University, Rodgers in the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2011 NFL Draft. In four seasons with the Falcons, Rodgers' balance of strength and speed has made him a promising change-of-pace back. Despite getting limited touches, the Texas native has made the most of his opportunities, recording at least one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown each season. (Chris Keane/Associated Press)

  • Even for a defensive back, McMillian was one of the smallest players in NFL history. At just 154 pounds, the eight-year NFL veteran finished his career with an impressive 23 interceptions and 404 interception returns yards. In 1997, McMillian had a career high eight interceptions for a league-leading 274 return yards and three touchdowns for the Kansas City Chiefs. (G. Newman Lowrance/Associated Press) 10

    Mark McMillian - 5' 7" - Cornerback

    Even for a defensive back, McMillian was one of the smallest players in NFL history. At just 154 pounds, the eight-year NFL veteran finished his career with an impressive 23 interceptions and 404 interception returns yards. In 1997, McMillian had a career high eight interceptions for a league-leading 274 return yards and three touchdowns for the Kansas City Chiefs. (G. Newman Lowrance/Associated Press)

  • The shortest player in the NFL, Holliday is known primarily for his speed. A top-ranked sprinter at LSU, Holliday gained recognition as the primary kick and punt returner for the Denver Broncos in 2012. That season, Holiday returned one kickoff and one punt for a touchdown and led the league with 481 total punt return yards. Unfortunately, Holliday appeared in only 2 games last season after being cut by the New York Giants. (Al Messerschmidt/Associated Press) 9

    Trindon Holliday - 5' 5" - Kick Returner / Punt Returner

    The shortest player in the NFL, Holliday is known primarily for his speed. A top-ranked sprinter at LSU, Holliday gained recognition as the primary kick and punt returner for the Denver Broncos in 2012. That season, Holiday returned one kickoff and one punt for a touchdown and led the league with 481 total punt return yards. Unfortunately, Holliday appeared in only 2 games last season after being cut by the New York Giants. (Al Messerschmidt/Associated Press)

  • What he lacked in vertical superiority, Sanders more than made up for in strength. Dubbed "The Hitman" by his teammates for his tackling power at the safety position, Sanders was one of the leagues best defensive backs, when healthy. The Indianapolis Colts safety was a Pro Bowler in 2005 and 2007 and also won a Super Bowl ring with the team in 2006. Unfortunately, injuries plagued his career, as he only managed to play more than 6 games in a season twice during his eight years in the NFL. (Kevin Terrell/Associated Press) 8

    Kevin Terrell

    Bob Sanders - 5' 8" - Strong Safety

    What he lacked in vertical superiority, Sanders more than made up for in strength. Dubbed "The Hitman" by his teammates for his tackling power at the safety position, Sanders was one of the leagues best defensive backs, when healthy. The Indianapolis Colts safety was a Pro Bowler in 2005 and 2007 and also won a Super Bowl ring with the team in 2006. Unfortunately, injuries plagued his career, as he only managed to play more than 6 games in a season twice during his eight years in the NFL. (Kevin Terrell/Associated Press)

  • Drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1999, Winfield played most of his career for the Minnesota Vikings. Although he often covered receivers far taller than him, the Ohio State product was one of the best cornerbacks of his decade. A Pro Bowler in 2008, 2009, and 2010, Winfield was consistently among the league's leading tacklers at the cornerback position. He finished his career with 27 interceptions and five defensive touchdowns. (Greg Trott) 7

    Antoine Winfield - 5' 9" - Cornerback

    Drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1999, Winfield played most of his career for the Minnesota Vikings. Although he often covered receivers far taller than him, the Ohio State product was one of the best cornerbacks of his decade. A Pro Bowler in 2008, 2009, and 2010, Winfield was consistently among the league's leading tacklers at the cornerback position. He finished his career with 27 interceptions and five defensive touchdowns. (Greg Trott)

  • Perhaps the most well-known undersized back in the NFL, Jones-Drew was a workhorse for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and a successful one at that. The former UCLA star appeared in three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2009 to 2011 and led the league in rushing during the 2011 season. During his eight-year stint in Jacksonville from 2006 to 2013, only three other backs amassed more total caries than Jones-Drew. (David Seelig/Associated Press) 6

    Maurice Jones-Drew - 5' 8" - Running Back

    Perhaps the most well-known undersized back in the NFL, Jones-Drew was a workhorse for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and a successful one at that. The former UCLA star appeared in three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2009 to 2011 and led the league in rushing during the 2011 season. During his eight-year stint in Jacksonville from 2006 to 2013, only three other backs amassed more total caries than Jones-Drew. (David Seelig/Associated Press)

  • Steve Smith has spent his entire career with a chip on his shoulder, which has helped make him one of the best receivers of the millennium. At just 5' 9", Smith has torn up opposing defenses as if he's well over six-feet tall, racking up at least 1000 receiving yards in a season eight times in his career. Only two other players have compiled more yards than Smith since he entered the league in 2001. (Jim Mahoney/Associated Press) 5

    Steve Smith - 5' 9" - Wide Receiver

    Steve Smith has spent his entire career with a chip on his shoulder, which has helped make him one of the best receivers of the millennium. At just 5' 9", Smith has torn up opposing defenses as if he's well over six-feet tall, racking up at least 1000 receiving yards in a season eight times in his career. Only two other players have compiled more yards than Smith since he entered the league in 2001. (Jim Mahoney/Associated Press)

  • Since 2007, no player in the NFL has caught more passes than Wes Welker. This is quite the achievement for one of the smallest wide receivers in the league. Welker has posted five seasons with 100 catches or more and has become synonymous with the term "possession receiver." He has led the league in receptions three times and holds two of the five highest reception marks for a single season in league history. (Ric Tapia/NFL) 4

    Wes Welker - 5' 9" - Wide Receiver

    Since 2007, no player in the NFL has caught more passes than Wes Welker. This is quite the achievement for one of the smallest wide receivers in the league. Welker has posted five seasons with 100 catches or more and has become synonymous with the term "possession receiver." He has led the league in receptions three times and holds two of the five highest reception marks for a single season in league history. (Ric Tapia/NFL)

  • Sproles has more than made a name for himself as a shifty utility back and has remained one of the league's most impactful players, despite his slight stature. With successful stints in San Diego and New Orleans, the 5'6" Sproles remains a deadly offensive weapon in Philadelphia. Although he has never gained more that 650 rushing yards in a season, he has seen unmatched success as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Since 2005, no running back has accumulated more receiving yards or caught more touchdown passes than Sproles. (Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL) 3

    Darren Sproles - 5' 6" - Running Back

    Sproles has more than made a name for himself as a shifty utility back and has remained one of the league's most impactful players, despite his slight stature. With successful stints in San Diego and New Orleans, the 5'6" Sproles remains a deadly offensive weapon in Philadelphia. Although he has never gained more that 650 rushing yards in a season, he has seen unmatched success as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Since 2005, no running back has accumulated more receiving yards or caught more touchdown passes than Sproles. (Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL)

  • Despite playing during Mesozoic Era (not really, we know that dinosaurs can't play sports), the 5' 1" Shapiro will forever live in football lore as the shortest player in history. Yes, he only played one game and yes, that game was played 86 years ago, but the fact remains: anybody that short who played in the NFL deserves to be recognized. Even the Guinness Book of World Records thinks so. (Pro Football Hall of Fame) 2

    Jack "Soapy" Shapiro - 5' 1"

    Despite playing during Mesozoic Era (not really, we know that dinosaurs can't play sports), the 5' 1" Shapiro will forever live in football lore as the shortest player in history. Yes, he only played one game and yes, that game was played 86 years ago, but the fact remains: anybody that short who played in the NFL deserves to be recognized. Even the Guinness Book of World Records thinks so. (Pro Football Hall of Fame)

  • Considered one of the most elusive backs in NFL history, Barry Sanders dominated the league for the entirety of his 10 year career. Despite his small size, Sanders never failed to rush for under 1,000 yards and missed just seven total games, a testament to his skill and durability. Despite not making the Super Bowl, the undersized superstar remains a household name in football lore. 1

    Greg Trott

    Barry Sanders - 5'8" - Running Back

    Considered one of the most elusive backs in NFL history, Barry Sanders dominated the league for the entirety of his 10 year career. Despite his small size, Sanders never failed to rush for under 1,000 yards and missed just seven total games, a testament to his skill and durability. Despite not making the Super Bowl, the undersized superstar remains a household name in football lore.