People love debating who is the best-of-the-best and who is the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) at each position in American football. It's a fun debate with our friends because it's interesting to see how much loyalty plays into rankings. A person can be a life-long fan of the team the running back is on, or they may have met the athlete once in their lifetime, but it's enough to create a connection and an attachment.
Below I am going to give my Top Ten (10) Running Backs of all-time. Football is a game far beyond the stat sheets. It's a game about heart, leadership, effort, and willingness to put your body in harm's way.
Before we may make our way into the top 10. We need to speak about several honorable mentions, which will set the path to the goal line (Yes, Pun was intended.).
Marcus Allen: Allen finds himself just outside the top ten. As this Hall of Fame running back earned himself 6 trips to the Pro Bowl, including two All-Pros, and MVP, and a Super Bowl ring with the Oakland Raiders. In the Super Bowl, Allen rushed for 191 yards on 20 carries, with a long of 74 yards, while punching the ball across the goal line twice. In addition, he caught two passes for 18 yards, bringing his game yard totals over 200 yards in the win against the Washington Redskins 38-9.
The former Raider and Chief played in 222 games, carrying the ball 3,022 times and totaling 12,243 yards and 123 touchdowns. Allen lands at fourteenth overall in rushing yards and third overall in rushing touchdowns.
Earl Campbell: His Hall of Fame career was stifled by injuries that limited him to only 115 Games. Campbell carried the ball 2,187 times in his career, rushing for 9,407 yards and scoring 74 touchdowns. He is tied for 26th all-time in rushing with Leroy Kelly, and now 37th on the all-time rushing list. Playing for only two teams in his career, Campbell was a 5-time Pro Bowler, 3-time All-Pro, 1987 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, 1979 Bert Bell Award winner (NFL Player of the Year), '78, '79, '80, AP offensive player of the year, and an MVP.
Gale Sayers: The Kansas Comet, AKA, Gale Sayers, another legend crippled by injuries. This Hall of Fame football running back only played in 68 games.
In his seven year career, Sayers earned four Pro Bowls, five All-Pros, carried the ball 991 times, totaling 4,956 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Sayers did it all back in the 60's. He ran across the goal line, returned punts and kickoffs into the end zone, threw for one touchdown in his career and received for 1,307 yards while catching nine touchdowns. He was a versatile star that averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
P.S. If you have not seen Brian's Song yet, I suggest you rent it today and watch it today.
O.J, Simpson: This Hall of Fame running back has become far more famous for slashing up two people than he has for slashing up defenses. Simpson, AKA, The Juice, is a 6-time Pro Bowler, 5-time All-Pro, a 1973 Bert Bell Award winner (NFL Player of the Year), '73 AP offensive Player of the Year, and an MVP.
This 6-foot 2-inch tall, 212-pound running back played in 135 games. In his 11-year career, he rushed the ball 2,404 times and ran for 11,236 yards scoring 61 touchdowns.
The Juice is also the founder of the 2,000 Yard rushing club. He's the first RB in NFL history to rush for two thousand yards in a single season, which occurred in 1973, when he ran for 2,003 yards.
Simpson sits at 21st in all-time rushing and is in a three way tie with Hershel Walker and DeAngelo Williams for all-time rushing touchdowns. Tied at 17th in the all-time list for yards per attempt at 4.7 and is ranked 11th all-time for yards per game with 83.2.
Thurman Thomas: Thomas, another Bills running back, played a pivotal part in the Buffalo Bills four straight Super Bowl appearances. This Houston, Texas native rushed for over a thousand yards in eight straight seasons and ranks 16th on the all-time rushing yards list with 12,074 yards in his career, while carrying the ball 2,877 times in only 182 games.
This Hall of Fame rusher ran for 65 touchdowns in his career, which helped him earn 5 Pro Bowl appearances, 2-time all-pro, 1991 AP offensive Player of the Year and an MVP. His powerful style of running ultimately collected him 16,352 yards from scrimmage and 88 total touchdowns.