Top 10 Records ~ The NFL's Greatest Running Backs Of All Time
All Time Top Ten Greatest
NFL Running Backs
"If you have a back rush for 100 yards, you're going to win seventy per cent of the time"
Running is instinct, it is something a football player is born with. You can't teach it. The speed, the cuts, fakes and changing direction are all part of a running backs natural talent. Running Backs have a flashy swagger but these guys take too much of a beating to care about style points. Yet they still make it look easy. In as much as any give Sunday a running back runs away from like 15 car crashes a game, and as a result of that sort of punishment, they tend to have shorter careers that other positions. In order to play this position you need to be determined, fearless and durable.
The Fullback in the NFL
There are fullbacks who lead the way for the half back sometimes called tailbacks. Fullbacks are kind of like an offensive lineman as they throw blocks and act as a decoy. They are generally bigger and heavier then his backfield running mate the halfback. The FB generally lines up three to four yards behind the quarterback.His job is to pound hard up the middle, getting the tough yards. The halfbacks are quicker and more explosive.
This topic was very hard to discuss, trying to narrow the greatest down to only ten. Well, here it is. The top ten running backs ever to play the game. Hope most of you agree :-).
Marion MotleyClick thumbnail to view full-size
Pro Career: 9 Seasons, 106 Games
- Pro Bowl 1950
- NFL 75th Anniversary
NFL 1940s All-Decade Team
- HOF 1968
Cleveland Browns 1946-1953
Pittsburgh Steelers -1955
Born: June 5 1920 Leesburg ,GA
Uniform Number: #76 (also wore #36 for a brief period of his career).
"The Jackie Robinson of Football"
Most football fans remember Marion Motley for bringing power football to Cleveland, which was later carried on by Jim Brown. He was the top NFL rusher in 1950. He caught 85 passes, scored 234 points in nine years. He was one of the National Football League's first black players of the modern era and one of its best fullbacks ever
As told by the great Sean Lahman in The Pro Football Historical Abstract, Motley's NFL numbers simply don't tell the story. There are two good reasons for that. First,Motley spent nearly five years after college serving in the U.S. Navy, costing him most of his prime football years. The second problem is that when he did turn pro, he started his career in the AAFC, a league that didn't have much competitive balance. Motley was an unstoppable avalanche, completely overwhelming opposing defenses. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry and helped the Cleveland Browns compile a 47-4-3 record and win all four AAFC Championships.Motley led the NFL in rushing yards in 1950, his (and the Browns') first year in the league. He was already thirty by this time, and injuries were beginning to take their toll."
In 1948, he led the Browns to a perfect 15-0 record and rushed 14 times for 133 yards and 3 scores in the championship game. Motley would balst from the inside yet he had the speed to go outside. He made most of his yardage on trap plays, on which a defensive lineman was allowed to penetrate the line of scrimmage, then was trapped, this allowed Motley to run through the vacated area. Motley was quotes as saying ''The trap was a fantastic play, but I was seldom sent outside. There's no telling how much yardage I might have made if I ran as much as some backs do now.''
Before the 1954 season due to suffering many injuries Motley retired. But after a year off he returned and played in 1955 with the Steelers, but had to retire again after a few games due to more injuries. After retiring he scouted players for the Browns, and he wanted to coach. At the time, racism frequently prevented minorities from obtaining coaching jobs and he was turned down on most offers.
In his nine professional seasons, he amassed 4,720 yards on 828 carries for an amazing 5.7 yards-per-carry average. In 1968 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. The previous year, former safety Emlen Tunnell of the New York Giants was the first black player to achieve the honor, making Motley the second. He died June 27, 1999 in Cleveland, Ohio at the age of 79.
- 5× Pro Bowl selection (1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983)
- 3× All-Pro selection (1978, 1979, 1980)
- 1978 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
- 1979 AP NFL MVP
- 2× PFWA NFL MVP
- 3× NEA NFL MVP
- 3× NFL Offensive Player of the Year
- 1978 UPI AFL-AFC Player of the Year
- 1979 Bert Bell Award
- 2× All-American
- 1977 Heisman Trophy
- 1977 UPI Player of the Year
- HOF 1991
Houston Oilers ~ 1978 -1984
New Orleans Saints ~ 1984 - 1985
Uniform #'s 20,34,35
Height: 5-11 Weight: 232 lbs.
Born: March 29, 1955 in Tyler, TX
College: University of Texas
NFL Draft 1978 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1 Houston Oilers
'The Tyler Rose'
From the University Of Texas to the Houston Oilers he immediately became a thorn in the side of the opposition. Campbell is widely acknowledged as one of the best power backs in NFL history. Described as a "one-man demolition team", Campbell was a punishing runner. Some called him a runaway freight train and in order to stop him you needed a brick wall. He went on to become the NFL Rookie of the Year, as well as the Most Valuable Player in 1978. The Luv Ya Blue era was now in full swing and the Texans were looking like the team in Texas taking away some of the glory of Americas Team, the Dallas Cowboys. 1975 Bum Phillips was hired and the Oilers were finally coming together.
Mean Joe Greene claimed that Campbell could inflict more damage on a team than any other back he ever faced. Earl was a dominant force for the small amount of time that he was in the NFL. He was the most dominant force in the league for a three year stretch in the late 70’s and early 80’s. His overall numbers might not stack up to the other guys here, but overall numbers are a lot of times a product of longevity instead of elite ability. Despite playing against stacked defenses and being gang-tackled nearly every time he carried the ball (a then-record 373 times), Campbell managed to average 5.2 yards per carry and score 13 rushing touchdowns in 1980 alone.
No one ran with more desire than Earl. They say he as a frightening optical illusion. His speed did not fit his physcial appearance. With thighs measuring 36' inches he was a sight in the locker room.
In 1984, he was traded to the New Orleans Saints, reuniting him with his former Oilers coach O.A. "Bum" Phillips. The trade was controversial in New Orleans, as it was widely believed that Campbell's skills had diminished, and the Saints already had the young George Rogers in the backfield. Campbell played in a diminished role in 1984 and 1985, and retired during the preseason of 1986, feeling that the beating he had taken during his career had taken too much of a toll, a toll which has become apparent in his life today.
"Somebody will always break your records. It is how you live that counts."
~ Earl Campbell
- 5× Pro Bowl selection
- 2× Super Bowl champion
- Super Bowl VIII MVP
- 1979 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
- Miami Dolphins #39 retired
- 1987 HOF
Height: 6-3 Weight: 237 lbs.
Born: Dec 25, 1946 in Stow, OH
NFL Draft: 1968 / Round: 1 / Pick: 8
Miami Dolphins (1968–1974)
Memphis Southmen (WFL) (1975)
New York Giants (1976–1978)
Miami Dolphins (1979)
At Syracuse, he played fullback from 1965–67 and was named an All-American. He established many of the school's rushing records, including some previously held by Ernie Davis, Jim Nance, Floyd Little, and Jim Brown.
He was one of the biggest running backs of his day and pounded through the middle of the field with relative ease, often dragging tacklers 5–10 yards. During the 1972 season, the Dolphins became the only team since the AFL-NFL Merger to go undefeated, and Csonka was an instrumental part of the success. Csonka led all rushers in Super Bowl VII with 112 yards on only 15 carries. Csonka's 1,117 yards that season combined with Mercury Morris contributing exactly 1,000 yards made them the first 1,000 yard rushing duo in NFL history. That rushing attack led the Dolphins to Super Bowls VI, VII, and VIII, with victories in the last two.
Perhaps his finest single-game effort came in Super Bowl VIII, when he was selected as the game’s Most Valuable Player. Miami's powerful attack was at its best with Csonka carrying 33 times for a then-Super Bowl record 145 yards and two touchdowns. Larry wound up his 11-year career with 8,081 yards rushing and added 820 yards on 106 pass receptions.
"Any time you try to win everything, you must be willing to lose everything."
~ Larry Csonka
TD DorsettClick thumbnail to view full-size
Career Highlights and Awards
- Drafted: 1977 Dallas Cowboys 1st round (2nd overall)
- Heisman Trophy Winner:1976
- Hall of Fame: 1994
- Pro Career: 12 Seasons, 173 games
- Pro Bowler: 4X
- First-Team All-Pro:1X
- Played in two Super Bowls, five NFC championship games,
- Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor
- HOF 1994
Dallas Cowboys (1977-1987)
Denver Broncos (1988)
Uniform # 33
'A Blaze of Glory'
Height: 5-11 Weight: 192 lbs.
Born: April 7, 1954 in Rochester, PA
A four-time All-America at Pittsburgh, Dorsett also won the 1976 Heisman Trophy. And in 1977 he was the Dallas Cowboys number 1 pick in the Draft. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards eight of his first nine seasons. To describe Dorsett running back style, we was swift with some of the smoothest strides. With his sharp, crisp cuts, he had an uncanny knack of finding daylight in the chaos along the line of scrimmage. He was good at turning small gainers into big gainers and routine plays into touchdowns.
"A lot of the people said I wouldn't last in this league," Dorsett said in 1987. "I was the skinny little kid from Aliquippa, Pa., who wasn't supposed to make it."
He played for the Cowboys for 11 seasons through 1987 and then finished off his brilliant career with the Denver Broncos in 1988. He rushed for 12,739 yards and accounted for 16,326 combined net yards in 12 seasons. Dorsett not only passed Jim Brown in both categories but ranked second behind only Walter Payton at the time of his retirement early in 1989. And the effect he had on his team can be measured by the fact that he rushed for more than 100 yards in 46 games. The Cowboys won 42 of those 46 games.
As a rookie, he rushed for 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns and added 273 yards and a touchdown on 29 receptions. He was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Cowboys went all the way to Super Bowl XII against the Denver Broncos.
In 1981, Tony Dorsett rushed for 1646 yards and four touchdowns on 342 carriers and also caught 32 balls for 325 yards and six touchdowns.
In 1982, during a Monday night game against the Minnesota Vikings, Dorsett set a record that may some day be tied but will never be broken . Dorsett received a handoff from quarterback Danny White and proceeded to run 99-yards for a touchdown, thus recording an unbreakable NFL record.
- Experience: 11
- 6× Pro Bowl selection
- 5× First-team All-Pro selection
- NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
- 1983 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
- 1986 NFL Offensive Player of the Year
- 3x UPI NFC Offensive Player of the Year
- NFL Record 2,105 Rushing Yards in a Single Season
- St. Louis Rams #29 retired
Eric "Mr Fourth Quarter" Dickerson
Number 6 Running Back
LA Rams - 1983-1987
Indianapolis Colts - 1987-1991
LA Raiders - 1992
Atlanta Falcons - 1993
- Height: 6-3 Weight: 220 Age: 49
- Born: 9/2/1960 Sealy , TX
- College: Southern Methodist
'Mr Fourth Quarter'
Just as others were wearing down Eric Dickerson was just getting started! When Eric Dickerson was drafted to the Los Angeles Rams in 1983 it was if some magic was brought to Hollywood, and everyone wanted a ticket to see this Running back do his thing. Some say he resembled a thoroughbred more than a human being. Every game you could count on Dickerson to electrify the fans as he tucked the football under his arm, and then headed for a sprint down the field with all the beauty and grace of a well-groomed racehorse. Dickerson also possessed an uncanny ability to read the defense and knew which holes he could burst through to score. Some others say he looked like a space man in a football uniform with his funny looking goggles. Standing at 6'3 one would think he would be playing as a forward in the NBA.
He was a sprinter out of high school. He teamed with Craig James at SMU to form the Pony Express. In the span of his eleven-year career, Dickerson set the NFL record for most yards rushed in a single season with 2,105 yards. He also became the first player in NFL history to gain more than 1,000 yards in seven consecutive seasons. When he retired in 1993, his 13,259 career rushing yards was the second best of all time.
In each of his first four years with the Rams, Dickerson and the Rams went to the playoffs. In 1984 break O.J. Simpson's single-season rushing record of 2,003 yards, set in 1973. In 1986, Dickerson set a new record for rushing yardage in a playoff game by gaining 248 yards against the Dallas Cowboys. In 1987 following a salary dispute Dickerson was traded to the Colts. It was one of the biggest deals in NFL history, as it involved 3 teams, 10 players and some draft swapping. In Indianapolis he once again earned his fourth rushing title, leading the league with 1,659 yards. He was with the Colts for 4 seasons, then in 1992 back to Los Angeles and then in 1993 he was with the Atlanta Falcons. In 1993 he retired without ever making it to the Super Bowl.
The Kansas CometClick thumbnail to view full-size
- 4× Pro Bowl selection
- 5× All-Pro selection
- NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
- NFL 1960s All-Decade Team
- 1965 UPI NFL-NFC Rookie of the Year
- 3× Pro Bowl MVP
- Chicago Bears #40 retired
- HOF 1977
Chicago Bears ~ 1965-71
Height: 6-0 Weight: 198 lbs.
Born: May 30, 1943 in Wichita, KS
NFL Draft 1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
AFL Draft 1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5
(By the Kansas City Chiefs)
'The Kansas Comet'
Watching Gale Sayers playing football was more like a cosmic event, when he ran it was like seeing a comet streak across the sky. Drafted by the Bears in 1965 he played his entire career there. He had a God given talent and all he needed was a crease to get down the field. He dominated not only as a
rusher but as a receiver and a special teams wizard.For every 10 times he handled the ball he got a touchdown. It is interesting to think had he played in a 16 game season what records he could have broken
In 1970, thanks to another knee injury, the Comet was clearly done in only his sixth NFL season. He was only able to rush 23 times for 52 yards that year. In 1971 he attempted a comeback, and suffered another knee injury while chasing a defender after an interception. He attempted one more comeback during 1972's training camp, then finally gave up. In 1977, Gale Sayers became the youngest player ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the age of 34. He chose George Halas as his presenter.
Even though he was named the top halfback in the NFL's first 50 years in
1969, there was concern for a time that because Sayers' only played for 7 seasons it might prevent his eventual election to the Pro Football
Hall of Fame.
But the Hall's Selection Committee never wavered in its resolve at the 1977 meeting, the first one in which Gale was eligible for consideration. The Committee's vote was unanimous and its summation simple: "There never was another to compare with him. What else is there to say!"
I don't care to be remembered as the man who scored six touchdowns in a game. I want to be remembered as a winner in life.
~ Gale Sayers
- 10× Pro Bowl selection
- 6× First-Team All-Pro selection
- 4× Second-Team All-Pro selection
- AP NFL MVP (1997)
- 1997 NEA NFL MVP
- 1989 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
- 1988 Heisman Trophy
- 2× NFL Offensive Player of the Year
- Holds 10 Detroit Lions Team Records
- HOF 2004
Barry Sanders YouTube Tribute
Detroit Lions (1989-98)
Height: 5-8 Weight: 203 lbs.
Born: July 16, 1968 in Wichita, KS
College: Oklahoma State
NFL Draft: 1989 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3
He was the heart and soul of the Lions through the 90’s. One of the all time electrifying running backs, Sanders a short, stocky, was very hard to tackle.
On Wednesday, July 28, 1999, Barry Sanders ,31 years of age, announced his retirement while still in the prime of his career. "The reason I am retiring is very simple," Sanders said "My desire to exit the game is greater than my desire to remain in it." He was just 1,457 yards short of former Chicago Bear Walter Payton's NFL career rushing record of 16,726.
Barry Sanders was known for his elusiveness and his play making, but something that everyone overlooks is the 1,114 yards he lost. He was humble, explosive and exciting. It has been said that nothing gets the blood pumping more than watching Barry Sanders ALMOST getting tackled. Come Sunday, when Sanders took a handoff, you always knew something electric was going to happen.
Michael Strahan, Giants DE once said:
"He would run 50 yards to lose one yard, but it was the prettiest yard you ever seen lost." If you look at this number, you will see how much these yards meant. He averaged 111 lost yards per season. His five yards a carry would jump to 6.3 if you remove his negative yardage.
Barry used his instincts when running the ball. He could turn a two-yard loss into a 10-yard gain. He fought for every inch he ran. After a touchdown, Sanders never spiked the ball or celebrated in the end zone. Instead he just flipped the ball to the referee.
The man was so elusive he got hit head on one time in his career and they made a commercial about it. "Impossible is nothing"
In 1988, Sanders had the greatest individual season in the history of college football on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. He rushed for 2,628 yards, scored 39 touchdowns, rushed for more than 300 yards in four games, and established 34 NCAA records in 11 regular season games.
After his record junior season at OSU, he joined the Detroit Lions and became one of the most thrilling players in the history of the NFL. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his 10 NFL seasons, making him the first running back to do so. In 1997, he became just the third person to gain more than 2,000 yards in a season. He finished his NFL career rushing for 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns.
It is important to note that Barry played for the sad sad sad Detroit Lions in the 90’s. No offense to his offensive line but he was a one man recking crew. The Lions made it to the NFC championship in 1991, but were beat by the Washington Redskins 41-10. Detroit would never get that close again and Barry Sanders never got his championship ring. People often try to imagine what he could have done if he was on the Dallas Cowboys or SF 49ers of the 1990’s.
A first- or second-team All-Pro all 10 of his NFL seasons, Sanders became the first NFL running back to record five 1,500-yard rushing seasons, in addition to being the only back to do so in four consecutive seasons (1994-1997). He is a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame.
- Pro Football Hall of Fame (2010 inductee)
- NFL record for career rushing yards (18,355)
- NFL record for career rushing touchdowns (164)
- NFL record for career 100+ yards rushing games (78)
- 8× Pro Bowl selection (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999)
- 4× First-Team All-Pro selection (1992, 1993, 1994, 1995)
- Second-Team All-Pro selection (1991)
- NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
- 3× Super Bowl Champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)
- 1993 NFL MVP
- 1990 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
- Super Bowl XXVIII MVP
- 2× NEA NFL MVP, (1991, 1992)
- 1993 PFWA NFL MVP
- Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor
- 1993 Bert Bell Award
- 5× Galloping Gobbler Award
- 1989 SEC Player of the Year
- Gator Football Ring of Honor
#3 Running Back
One in A Million
Dallas Cowboys (1990-2002)
Arizona Cardinals (2003-2004)
Height: 5-9 Weight: 210 lbs.
Born: May 15, 1969 in Pensacola, FL
In the 1990 draft many of the Cowboys' scouts were hesitant to take Emmitt Smith, and this was largely because his 40-yd-dash times in the 4.6-4.7 range were considered too slow for an NFL running back. Not only was he too slow, but he was too small (about 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds) and too soft to pound out the tough yards between the tackles. To top it off, he had an unbreakable habit of carrying the ball under one arm instead of shifting it away from an oncoming tackler. The team's head scout, Walt Yowarsky, countered by listing Smith's positive traits, "This kid broke every high-school rushing record in Florida. He can catch, he can block, and I've yet to see him get caught from behind. All he does is make yards. You have to take him." A running back with great vision, an explosive first step, and lateral quickness - all of which Smith had in abundance.
Walter Payton was the NFL's all-time leader in rushing yards and all-purpose yards prior to the 2002 NFL season, when Emmitt Smith broke his record.
He is after all the leading rusher in the history of the NFL. He hung around in Arizona for a few years to pad his record. He played on some dominant Cowboy teams in the 90’s. His yards per carry is one of the lowest on this list at 4.2 per carry. He's the only rushing back to win a Super Bowl, the NFL MVP Award, the NFL Rushing Crown, and the Super Bowl MVP Award all in a single season (1993)
Three days before Super Bowl XXXIX in February 2005, Smith announced his retirement from the NFL. He was released by the Arizona Cardinals and signed a one day contract for no money with the Dallas Cowboys – after which he immediately retired as a Cowboy, the team he played for from 1990 to 2002.
As if all he did on the football field wasnt enough, he and partner Cheryl Burke won the Season 3 championship of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."
"For me, winning isn't something that happens suddenly on the field when the whistle blows and the crowds roar. Winning is something that builds physically and mentally every day that you train and every night that you dream."
~ Emmitt Smith
Walter "Sweetness" PaytonClick thumbnail to view full-size
Walter Jerry Payton
- 9× Pro Bowl selection
- 6× First-team All-Pro selection
- 3× Second-team All-Pro
- 1977 NFL MVP
- 1977 PFWA NFL MVP
- 1977 NEA NFL MVP
- 1985 UPI NFC Player of the Year
- 1977 UPI NFC Player of the Year
- 1978 Pro Bowl MVP
- Super Bowl XX Champion
- NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
- Chicago Bears #34 retired
- HOF 1993
Sweetness in Inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame
Chicago Bears 1975-87
Height: 5-10 Weight: 200 lbs.
Born: July 25, 1954 in Columbia, MS
Died: November 1, 1999 at age of 45
College: Jackson State
Drafted: 1st round (4th player overall) in 1975 by Chicago Bears
"I want to set the record so high that the next person who tries for it, it's going to bust his heart," Payton once said. And heart is what Walter Payton had. Many times he was compared to Gale Sayers but Walter didn't see that. Where Sayers danced around defenders, Payton mowed over them. Sweetness was more attributed to his personality then to his running style. He was smaller than a typical running back but he played much bigger.
Hall of Fame NFL player and coach Mike Ditka described Payton as the greatest football player he had ever seen—but even greater as a human being.
The Chicago Bears drafted Payton in the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft, as the fourth overall pick. The Bears had endured several losing seasons after the retirement of the Gale Sayers in 1972. Payton's first game he did not have a great start as he was held to zero net rushing yards on eight attempts. His best performance of the season was the final game against the New Orleans Saints, where he rushed for 134 yards on 20 carries. Payton finished the season with only 679 yards and seven touchdowns.
Payton's motto was Never Die Easy, which is also the title of his autobiography. Payton gives credit to Bob Hill, his coach at Jackson State. This was due to the fact that Payton refused to intentionally run out-of-bounds, and he always delivered some punishment to his tacklers before being forced off the field or forced down.
Payton was an absolute monster on the gridiron. He would just run people over as he ran with such anger you couldn't help but see it. He was a violent runner and it payed off for him. He was the first to use a brutal stiff arm and use it effectively, he also was the first to utilize the stutter step in the running game. Payton always played on an average Bears team and yet still found tremendous success. When there was little fun on the field, Payton helped make life fun in the locker room by becoming the club's biggest joker and purveyor of practical jokes. Some notable pranks Sweetness loved to pull were sneaking into the locker room before everyone else to lock the entire team out in the snow, taking over the Halas Hall switchboard to answer the organization's phone calls. Perhaps this "Sweetness spirit" was the underlying fuel to the charismatic Bears that would take the field a few years down the road.
Against Minnesota, he ran for 275 yards, an NFL single-game record that Corey Dillion (278), Jamal Lewis (295) and Adrian Petersen (296 yards) all surpassed. And in 1984, he broke Jim Brown's long-standing rushing record of 12,312 yards. Finally Payton saw the Bears finally make it to the Super Bowl XX in 1985.Chicago beat the New England Patriots 46-10. He had 22 rushes for 61 yards and one fumble.
He retired after the 1987 season, and the Bears immediately retired No. 34. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1993, his first year of eligibility. His son Jarrett Payton presented the award to him.
Walter Payton passed away on Nov 1, 1999, from all that I have read about this man, for one shining moment the world of sports stopped and and took notice of all that is good about sports, all of which was embodied by this man. The grief and and affection came from all corners and people remembered. And what they remembered was not just about the records he broke or how spectacular he was as a player. It was more about how you could be a superstar and still be someone you could touch. He was a down to earth funny man always looking for a good prank. He was a man who loved to laugh and wasnt afraid to cry. Paytone had not been just a great player he was more for he showed that you could be a great football player and role model at the same time. Especially in times when role models are so short in supply.
"Sweetness" may have passed away before his time, but his life remains a testament to greatness -- as an athlete and as a human being.
"I think Walter’s legacy will be that of a man with a God-given ability that got the most out of it at every possible chance. He did it with pride, he did it with dignity, he did it with respect for the game."
~ Eddie Payton
The Number One Greatest Running BackClick thumbnail to view full-size
- 9× Pro Bowl selection (1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965)
- 8× First-Team All-Pro selection (1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965)
- Second-Team All-Pro selection (1962)
- NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
- NFL 1960s All-Decade Team
- 3× NFL MVP (1957, 1958, 1965)
- 3× UPI NFL MVP (1958, 1963, 1965)
- 3× Pro Bowl MVP (1961, 1962, 1965)
- Lacrosse Hall of Fame
- HOF - 1971
#1 Greatest Running Back
Cleveland Browns 1957-65
Height: 6-2 Weight: 232 lbs.
Born: Feb 17,1936 St. Simons Island, GA
NFL Draft: 1957 / Round: 1 / Pick: 6
There's not much to say about Jim Brown that hasn't already been said. He ranked as the most dominant Running Back in the league in seven of his nine seasons. Drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1957, he immediately revolutionized the game with his combination of speed, agility and brute power. He was a threat to score from any place on the field and demoralized defenses by stoically shaking off their toughest hits. Brown upon retiring before the '66 season was the leader in yards (12,312), All purpose yards (15,549), and touchdowns (126). Brown was an elite force and nobody wanted to mess with this man on the field. He had an incredible combination of pure strength and power. Brown who has the record for yards per game (104.3) and total yards from scrimmage per game (125.5) still stands today. He was the first player to hit 100 touchdowns. Brown retired early to pursue an acting career.
Brown was not just one of the greatest NFL running backs of all time,he was an All-American lacrosse player who was one of the finest ever, averaged 38 points per game in high school basketball and lettered in basketball at Syracuse, he finished fifth in the 1956 national decathlon championship, was offered a minor-league deal by the Yankees, and lastly he could have been a pro boxer after he retired.
Jim Brown is to running backs what Superman is to cartoon heroes. He played only nine seasons for the Cleveland Browns - and led the NFL in rushing eight times. Brown was bigger than some of the lineman, but he was twice as fast. He finished with nine pro bowls and eight first team all pro selections in his nine years of playing for the Cleveland Browns. He finished his career way out in front of everyone else in rushing yards. He had 12,312 at 5.2 yards per carry for his career. He also scored 126 touchdowns. Let’s not forget that he was playing 12 and 14 game seasons back then, so his nine year career is about equivalent to seven years in today’s NFL. Brown would still be dominant in today’s league, is there anything else that needs to be said!
Unlike most athletes, Brown retired when he was on top. At 30, he decided he'd rather be in movies than star on a football field
"Make sure when anyone tackles you, he remembers how much it hurts."
~ Jim Brown
Bo Jackson Honorable Mention Running Back
Kansas City Chiefs (1989-98)
The Nigerian Nightmare
known for his powerful running style and ability to break tackles. Okoye's six seasons in the NFL saw a league rushing title in 1989, two Pro Bowl appearances (1989, 1991), and three playoff appearances. He voluntarily ended his NFL career due to multiple injuries. He wore number 35.
Los Angeles Raiders (1987-1990)
An MLB and NFL all-star, he could climb tall walls with spectacular catches and could win the Heisman at his “hobby” sport. To be more precise: in eight major-league seasons, Bo hit .250 with 141 HRs and 415 RBI, and was so good that he returned after surgery, and playing with a prosthetic hip, hit 29 homers in his final two seasons.
In four part-time NFL seasons with the Raiders, he played only 38 games but ran for 2,782 yards, an average of 5.4 yards per carry. Bo’s best baseball season came in 1989, when he hit .256 with 32 homers, 105 RBI and 26 stolen bases. He was named MVP of the All-Star game, and five months later, after he rushed for 950 yards in just 11 games for the Raiders, was named to the Pro Bowl team
- Indianapolis Colts (1994–1998)
- St. Louis Rams (1999–2006)
Chicago Bears (1930-37, ’43)
Monster of the Midway
Bronislau “Bronko” Nagurski was born in Ottawa, Canada but moved to Minnesota with his family when he was a young boy. It is fairly well established that he was, indeed, “discovered” by University of Minnesota Head Coach Clarence “Fats” Spears, who got the young man to come play for University of Minnesota as a tackle and fullback, becoming one of the greatest college football players in history.
He later went on to become one of the greatest players in National Football League history, too, playing from 1930-1937 (plus one game in 1943) for the Chicago Bears. He is the only player ever to be named to the All-Pro team playing at three separate (non-kicking) positions, as he played fullback on offense and defensive lineman on defense, plus occasionally offensive tackle on offense, as well.
During the offseasons, he also was a star professional wrestler (he won three national titles as a wrestler).
The giant Nagurksi (he was about six two and over two hundred and thirty pounds, which is very big now but was absolutely a behemoth back then) is one of the most dominant athletes of his generation.
Steamrollers are the 100 Yard Rushers
Most 100-yard rushing games in a career
1. Emmitt Smith
2. Walter Payton
3. Barry Sanders
4. Eric Dickerson
5. Jerome Bettis
6. Jim Brown
7. Curtis Martin
8. Edge James
9. Franco Harris
10. Thurman Thomas