Running Backs

NFL Running Backs garner the most hits and the most yards of any player. Some running backs are bruisers like Earl Campbell and Franco Harris, while others are quick and elusive like Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith.


Dick Lane set the all-time interception record with 14 in a 12-game season, which no one has topped, even in a 16-game schedule. He built a reputation for handling ball carriers and receivers roughly. Learn why Lane was a feared opponent.

Hugh McElhenny was one of only three players to have gained more than 11,000 all-purpose yards. He frequently left defenders dazed with his amazing speed and ability to change direction at will. Learn more about thrill runner Hugh McElhenny.

Marion Motley amassed 4,720 yards on 828 carries for an astounding 5.7 yards per carry in only nine seasons. He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 and was named to the NFL's All-Time Team in 1994.

Bronko Nagurski symbolized power running and possessed a brute force that has never been matched. He retired in 1938 to become a professional wrestler but later returned to the Bears in 1943. Find out more about powerhouse Bronko Nagurski.

Steve Van Buren grew to be a giant in the game of football. In 1947, he became the second player to rush for over 1000 yards with 1008 total yards. He retired with a record of 5860 rushing yards. Learn more about Steve Van Buren, the great Eagles player.

Franco Harris led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl victories. He retired in in 1984 after amassing 12,120 rushing yards, which was ranked third overall at the time. Read about Franco Harris, the NFL's intelligent and agile fullback.

Jim Taylor's accomplishments as fullback for Green Bay were unfortunately overshadowed by the hype around Jim Brown. His greatest season came in 1962, when he posted 1474 rushing yards and topped all players.

Jim Thorpe is considered by many to be one the greatest athletes of the 20th century. He was an Olympic champion, a major-league baseball player, an All-American and All-Pro in football and the first President of the NFL.

Emlen Tunnell was the first African American in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At the time of his retirement in 1961, he held the records for interceptions, interception yardage, punt returns and punt return yardage. Learn more about New York Giant Emlen Tunnell.

Ernie Nevers was dubbed "the football player without a fault" by Stanford coach Pop Warner. He was gifted at nearly every task on the football field, including running, passing and kicking. Learn more about the 1920s football hero Ernie Nevers.

Walter Payton set records for carries and rushing touchdowns in his 13 years with the Chicago Bears. Payton is arguably the greatest running back to ever play the game of football. Learn about the legendary NFL running back Walter Payton.

Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders abruptly retired from the NFL at 31 after a winning season. His retirement left him just short of breaking the all-time rushing record set by Walter Payton. Learn more about the Detroit Lion Barry Sanders.

Clarke Hinkle was the leading rusher in NFL history with 3,860 yards. He entered the Coast Guard after retiring in 1941. Learn about Clarke Hinkle, one of the greatest all-around fullbacks.

Elroy Hirsch became the most devastating long-distance touchdown threat the NFL had ever seen during the 1951 season. He retired in 1957 -- with 387 receptions for 7,029 yards and 60 touchdowns -- and started an acting career.

Gale Sayers, at 34, was the youngest player ever to be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, nagging injuries began to take their toll, and Sayers decided to retire in 1972. Learn about Gale Sayers, the 1977 inductee.

O.J. Simpson's notoriety certainly lost him fans, but in his football career he rushed for 11,236 yards and 61 rushing touchdowns. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1985.

Emmitt Smith is the only player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,400 yards in five consecutive seasons. He holds the record for the most postseason touchdowns, with 20, and he retired in 2004 with 18,355 rushing yards.

Earl Campbell won the 1977 Heisman Trophy and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990. His career was cut short due to the constant pounding and abuse he took during his eight-year career. Learn about Earl Campbell's great running back career.

Defensive back Jack Christiansen might have been the greatest punt returner ever. He averaged 21.47 yards per return in 1952, which stands as the second highest ever. Learn more about Hall of Fame inductee Jack Christiansen.

Eric Dickerson established rookie records and broke O.J. Simpson's single-season rushing record. He retired in 1993 and amassed 13,259 career rushing yards in his career. Learn more about the running back who is second only to Walter Payton.

Tony Dorsett was an electrifying runner. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1994 after having rushed for 12739 yards. Dorsett is third overall in career rushing yards. Learn how Tony Dorsett carried the Cowboys to greatness in the 1970s and 1980s.

Jim Brown set several records in his short career and is often considered football's greatest runner. His average of 5.2 yards per carry is still the best in NFL history -- no other player with 1000 carries has come close.