NFL Rushing TD Leaders By Year—1970s
Long before fantasy football was big business, running backs were clearly not scoring touchdowns with the frequency that they are today. Maybe defenses were better or more attention was paid to defense and less to racking up points, but regardless, the leaders in rushing during the ‘70's were not prolific in scoring TDs the way they are today. Here is a list of those leaders:
1979-Earl Campbell, Houston Oilers (19)
Earl Campbell was a very big but very elusive running back, and he led the NFL in rushing TDs in both 1979 and 1980 (tie with Billy Sims). In 1979, Campbell carried 368 times for a league-high 1697 yards and 19 touchdowns (which also led the league). Campbell also had 16 receptions for 94 yards out of the backfield. In addition, he led the league in rushing yards three straight years (1978-80).
1978-David Sims, Seattle Seahawks (14)
Fullback David Sims only played in the NFL for three seasons, all with Seattle, but in 1978 he made it count by leading the league in rushing touchdowns. Sims carried 174 times for 752 yards and 14 TDs. He also caught 30 passes for 195 yards and one more TD as a receiver.
1977-Walter Payton, Chicago Bears (14)
Walter Payton, nicknamed "Sweetness," was one of the greatest running backs ever to play the game. And while he held the all-time rushing yardage mark for several years, Payton only led the NFL in rushing one season, 1977. That year, Payton also led the league with 14 TDs, while carrying 339 times for 1852 yards, an average of 132.3 yards per game. Payton added 27 receptions for 269 yards and 2 more TDs.
1976-Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers (14)
Though most know Pittsburgh's Franco Harris for his role in "The Immaculate Reception" and for being a part of those great Steelers teams in the ‘70's, Harris was a very consistent performer. Still, he never led the league in rushing. But in 1976, Harris carried 289 times for 1128 yards and an NFL-best 14 touchdowns. He added 23 receptions for 151 yards as well.
1975-Pete Banaszak, Oakland Raiders (16) and OJ Simpson, Buffalo Bills (16)
Oakland's Pete Banaszak played both halfback and fullback during his career, and in 1975 shared the NFL lead for rushing TDs with Buffalo's OJ Simpson. Both backs had 16 touchdowns. Banaszak carried 187 times for 672 yards, while Simpson carried 329 times for a league-high 1817 yards. Simpson also added 28 receptions for 426 yards and 7 more TDs as a receiver.
1974-Tom Sullivan, Philadelphia Eagles (11)
Philadelphia's Tom Sullivan carried 244 times for 760 yards in 1974, but wound up leading the NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns. He also had 39 receptions for 312 yards and one more TD out of the backfield.
1973-Floyd Little, Denver Broncos (12) and OJ Simpson, Buffalo Bills (12)
Denver's Floyd Little was a very consistent running back in his nine years in the NFL. In 1973, he tied Buffalo's OJ Simpson for the league lead in rushing TDs with 12. Little carried 256 times for 979 yards, and added 41 receptions for 423 yards and one TD as a receiver. Simpson, meanwhile, had one of the greatest seasons for a running back in NFL history, carrying 332 times for a then-record 2003 yards and the 12 TDs. It was the second year in a row that Simpson led the NFL in rushing yards, and he averaged an astonishing 143.1 yards per game.
1972-Mercury Morris, Miami Dolphins (12)
Mercury Morris was part of the 1972 Dolphins' team that went undefeated during the regular season and playoffs, the only team ever to do so in the NFL. That season, Morris also had his only 1000-yard season with exactly 1000 yards on 190 carries, with an NFL-high 12 rushing TDs. He added 15 receptions for 168 yards as well.
1971-Duane Thomas, Dallas Cowboys (11)
Running back Duane Thomas only played four NFL seasons, but in 1971 while with Dallas, he led the league in rushing touchdowns with 11. Thomas carried 175 times for 793 yards and the 11 TDs, and added 13 receptions for 153 yards and 2 more TDs out of the backfield.
1970-MacArthur Lane, St. Louis Cardinals (11)
Journeyman running back MacArthur Lane played 11 seasons in the NFL, and never had over 1000 rushing yards. But in 1970 while with St. Louis, Lane led the NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns. He carried 206 times for 977 yards, and added 32 receptions for 365 yards and 2 more TDs as a receiver.