The Quickest Recorded Touchdowns in NFL History

There is no better way to start a game of football than with a touchdown in the first 15 seconds. That’s a challenging feat, but it has been done dozens of times over the years. While we’ve explored many aspects of the NFL’s storied history before, this time we’re taking a look at the quickest touchdowns in the NFL.

Although we can’t possibly cover all of them here in any meaningful detail, many early touchdowns stop the clock at about the same time (usually between the 11th and 13th seconds of the game). This makes ranking “the quickest touchdowns” rather tricky, and it is further complicated by the fact that the officials controlling the stop clock aren’t always all that precise themselves, as you’ll see below. 

But first, we have to give an honorable mention to Devin Hester.  Although it took 14 seconds off the clock, it was arguably the greatest opening score in NFL history.  Hester was a rookie for the Chicago Bears during the 2006 season, breaking records along the way.  He then capped off the year by taking the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl 92-yards to pay dirt, the only time this occurred in Super Bowl History. 

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NFL logo on a field
Photo credit Adrian Curiel (sourced via Unsplash)

(13 seconds) Napolean Harris - Minnesota Vikings (2008)

Napoleon Harris scored one of the fastest touchdowns in history in 2008 when he returned a kickoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars within just 13 seconds of the game starting. The touchdown was a 27-yard fumble return.

The Vikings ended up winning that game 30-to-12, so Harris’ early TD wasn’t the only one that won the game for the Vikings, but it certainly set the tone for the rest of the match. The other TD scorers for the Vikings included Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson, but Harris didn’t score again after his explosive start in the game.

(12 Seconds) Jacoby Jones - Houston Texans (2011)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t have a good game against the Houston Texans that year, as was evident from the lightning-fast touchdown from Jacoby Jones just 12 seconds on the clock. The touchdown came from an 80-yard pass from Matt Schaub toward Jacoby Jones, and the Buccaneers never really recovered after that.

This first play was quickly followed by a 78-yard score on a short pass and a long run from Arian Foster before the Texans eventually finished off the first half 16-3 with 268 yards of offense.

(11 Seconds) Dallas Clark - Indianapolis Colts (2009)

The “Gloveless Legend,” Dallas Clark has made many remarkable touchdowns over the years, but in 2009, he managed one of the fastest TDs in the NFL. He scored just 11 seconds into the game against the Miami Dolphins in what ended up being a 27-to-23 victory for the Colts. The opener was an impressive 80-yard touchdown, which Clark followed up with a total of 183 yards for the whole game.

Numbers like these often throw bookies off guard, but that’s part of the fun. Eleven seconds for a touchdown makes withdrawing cash out winnings as quickly as possible appear dreadfully slow.  

(11 Seconds) Knile Davis - Kansas City Chiefs (2016)

Knile Davis’ 11-second touchdown for the Chiefs in 2016 is impressive not just because of how fast it is but also because it brought back the opening kickoff a whole 106 yards for the touchdown against the Houston Texans.

This was the second-longest kickoff return in postseason history after Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard record in the Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. However, that one was at the second-half kickoff, whereas Knile Davis’ return TD is one of the fastest in history.

(3 Seconds) Randal Williams - Dallas Cowboys (2003)

This play not only brought the Cowboys a 23-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles but also earned Randal Williams a Guinness World Record for the “Fastest Touchdown in NFL History.” It was more than deserving, as Williams managed to ingeniously cut off and return the Eagles’ onside kick within mere seconds of the start of the game.

However, there is a bit of controversy to this touchdown, as it took more than just three seconds for Williams to score. This is one of those instances where the officials up in the booth dropped the ball and didn’t handle the clock correctly. Even Williams himself agrees that three seconds isn’t correct:

“I watched it a couple of times. I probably took three or four steps before that first tick came off the clock,” Williams said after the Cowboys’ 23-21 win. “Hey, that’s not my fault. It goes down in the record book.”

And he is correct – even though everyone can see plain as day that the actual time was five or six seconds, the clock showed three seconds, so that’s what the record book says. Fortunately, this doesn’t matter much because six seconds would still have been an unbeaten record.

Avid NFL fans can cite numerous other early touchdowns that have happened in the 10-to-15-second interval of the game. This means that, apart from Randal Williams’ top spot, the rest can be swapped with other early touchdowns. However, this doesn’t make the four touchdowns above any less deserving, so we stick by our picks.

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