Darrius Heyward-Bey’s NFL career has been a textbook case of “what if?” Famously selected over Michael Crabtree and taken seventh overall in the 2009 NFL Draft because Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis fell in love with his 4.3 speed, Heyward-Bey has been incredibly underwhelming during his eight years in professional football. Mostly used as a deep threat during his time at the University of Maryland, Heyward-Bey has been plagued by drops throughout his NFL career. As a rookie, he was targeted 40 times, but caught just nine balls. Similar stats dot his résumé, whether he’s on the Raiders, the Colts or now the Pittsburgh Steelers. Heyward-Bey has been like a jet grounded on the tarmac, possessing the ability to fly but seemingly unable to take off.
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But on Sunday, Heyward-Bey flashed the ability that made Davis reach to overdraft him all those years ago. Streaking from his initial position on the left side of the field to his right to run a reverse, he paused for a moment as he searched for a hole. Once he identified it, he was gone, shooting through the first level of defenders like a supernova and trucking one Dolphins defensive back into oblivion. Then, finally unimpeded, Heyward-Bey let his speed take over, propelling him past four Dolphins defenders in pursuit before reaching the end zone for a 60-yard score.
It was Heyward-Bey’s first rushing attempt of the season, and it reminded us of what he can do when the conditions are right. Heyward-Bey may never soar to the heights that Al Davis once imagined, but when you possess 4.3 speed, there’s always going to be a place for you on the football field.