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Detroit Lions’ All-Time Rushing Leaders (Yardage)

Updated on February 9, 2009

Barry Sanders

Billy Sims

Dexter Bussey


The Detroit Lions just completed the first 0-16 season in NFL history, and though the franchise boasts four championships in their history since their start in 1930, they have not had a single Super Bowl appearance.  Still, this team has fielded some great running backs, especially the great Barry Sanders.  Here is a list of the Lions’ top 10 all-time in rushing yards, though I’m quite sure any Lions’ fan would trade them in for a playoff appearance, or heck, even a few wins. 


Barry Sanders (15,269)—Poor Barry Sanders, he wound up on a franchise like this, and still managed to put up so many yards in his career (15,269) that he ranks third in NFL history in that department.  But he also retired a bit prematurely, so who knows how his career could have wound up or where else he may have played.  Sanders played for the Lions his entire career, 1989 to 1998, and ranks first in team history by in rushing yards by over 10,000.  Sanders, remarkably, made the Pro Bowl every season, including six times as first team All Pro.  In 1997, he rushed for a career high 2053 yards with 11 rushing touchdowns, adding 33 catches for 305 yards and 3 more scores out of the backfield.  The 2053 yards also ranks third in NFL history for a single season.


Billy Sims (5106)—Billy Sims only played in the NFL from 1980 to 1984, every season with Detroit, and yet ranks second to Sanders in team history with 5106 rushing yards.  Sims made the Pro Bowl his first three seasons, and his best year with the team was 1981, with a career best 1437 rushing yards and 13 rushing TDs (tied career high), adding 28 receptions for 451 yards and 2 more touchdowns as a receiver. 


Dexter Bussey (5105)—Dexter Bussey played in Detroit his entire career, from 1974 to 1984 and ranks third in franchise history with 5105 rushing yards.  Bussey was a steady player but never had a 1000-yard season.  His best season was 1978, when he rushed for career highs in yards (924) and rushing touchdowns (5), adding 31 catches for another 275 yards and 1 more score.


Altie Taylor (4297)—Altie Taylor played most of his career in Detroit, from 1969 to 1975, and though he was mostly a backup, ranks fourth in Lions’ history with 4297 rushing yards.  Taylor’s best season was 1971, despite playing in 14 games and not starting once.  That year, Taylor rushed for a career high 736 yards with 4 rushing scores, adding 270 yards on 26 catches for 1 more TD out of the backfield, for a total of 1006 yards from scrimmage. 


Nick Pietrosante (3933)—Fullback Nick Pietrosante played for the Lions for most of his career, from 1959 to 1965 and was a two-time Pro Bowler.  Pietrosante also ranks fifth in franchise history with 3933 rushing yards.  His best season in Detroit was 1960, one of his Pro Bowl years, with career highs in rushing yards (872) and rushing TDs (8), adding 13 catches for 129 yards as well. 


James R. Jones (3452)—James Jones played for the Lions from 1983 to 1988, and ranks sixth in team history with 3452 rushing yards.  Jones’ best season in Detroit was 1986, with career best numbers in rushing yardage (903) and rushing touchdowns (8), adding 54 catches for 334 yards and 1 more TD as a receiver. 


Ace Gutowsky (3077)—Ace Gutowsky played for the Lions most of his career, from 1932 to 1938, and still ranks seventh in their history with 3077 rushing yards.  Gutowsky was a fullback, and his best season was 1936, with career highs in rushing yards (827) and rushing touchdowns (6). 


Mel Farr (3072)—Mel Farr played for Detroit his entire career, from 1967 to 1973, and ranks eighth in team history with 3072 rushing yards.  Farr’s best season was his rookie year, one of two Pro Bowl seasons, when he rushed for a career best 860 yards with 3 rushing scores, adding 39 catches for 317 yards and 3 more touchdowns out of the backfield. 


Kevin Jones (3067)—Kevin Jones only played in Detroit from 2004 to 2007, but ranks ninth in Lions’ history with 3067 rushing yards.  Jones’ best season was 2004, when he rushed for a career high 1133 yards with 5 rushing TDs, and added 28 catches for 180 yards and one more touchdown as a receiver. 


James Stewart (2890)—James Stewart began his career in Jacksonville, and finished it with the Lions from 2000 to 2002.  And though he only played in Detroit for three seasons, Stewart ranks tenth in franchise history with 2890 rushing yards.  Stewart’s best season was with the Lions in 2000, when he rushed for a career high 1184 yards with 10 rushing touchdowns, adding 32 receptions for 287 yards and one more TD as well. 


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