Anyone who’s kept tabs on the NFL Combine over the years knows there’s a (fairly understandable) preoccupation with the size of the players hoping to make the leap from the college level.
That’s especially true when you’re talking about quarterbacks. In 2022, Kenny Pickett’s hands were subjected to an almost hysterical amount of attention, and Bryce Young is just one of the many QBs who’ve had to address concerns over how their height might affect their ability to perform in the pocket.
Being on the taller side obviously gives most players an edge thanks in no small part to the amount of muscle that can be added to a larger-than-normal frame, so while height is undoubtedly an important metric, it’s just one of the many factors scouts consider when searching for talent.
The average NFL player stands at 6’2″ and weighs around 245 pounds, but over the years, there have been a number of guys who’ve decidedly landed on the shorter end of the spectrum and still managed to get a shot—including Deuce Vaughn, the running back who was scooped up by the Cowboys in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL after measuring in at 5’5″ at the combine.
While he may be one of the shortest players to take reps with an NFL team, he still has nothing on the man who may never be topped in that particular category.
Who’s the shortest player in NFL history?
In order to answer this question, we need to go back close to a century to take a look at an NFL team most people have probably never heard of: the Staten Island Stapletons.
The Stapletons existed for a grand total of four seasons after gaining admission to the NFL in 1929, and their only real contribution to the league’s history is the player who serves as the answer to the question that brought you here in the first place.
That man is Jack Shapiro, a Bronx native who played for Evander Child High School despite weighing 85 pounds at the time. However, he was still able to walk on at NYU before earning a full scholarship as a fullback, and he decided to continue pursuing his football dreams after graduating.
The Stapletons allowed him to do exactly that when they tapped the 5’1″ Shapiro to suit up for a game against the Minneapolis Red Jackets during their inaugural season in 1929, and to this day, the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes him as the shortest player to ever participate in an NFL game.
The game has obviously come a long way since then, and if you’re looking for a player in the Modern Era, I’d argue the honor goes to Trindon Holliday, the speedy wide receiver who was selected by the Texans in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
While both Holliday and the aforementioned Vaughn clocked in at 5’5″ at the NFL Combine, the former was listed at that height during his time in the NFL while the latter had an extra inch added by the time he arrived at training camp, which I’d argue is enough to grant Holliday the distinction.