Who is the best running back of all time? Would you choose Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, or someone else? As long as there is football, this will be a hot topic of discussion. I will answer this question in a different way by listing the best running backs of all time by alphabet. Each letter of the alphabet will have one selection, two if it extremely difficult to choose only one. The only criteria is that the player must already be retired. Enjoy, and I welcome comments and debates on my selections.
A: Marcus Allen, 1982 – 1997
Marcus Allen was born on Marc 26, 1960, in San Diego, California. Allen was drafted out of the University of Southern California by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1982. He was a 6 time Pro Bowler and 2 time First-Team All-Pro. He was the MVP in the Raiders Super Bowl XVII victory. Allen had 3 seasons of 1,000 or more yards rushing. He finished his career with 12,243 rushing yards and 123 rushing touchdowns. Marcus Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
B: Jim Brown, 1957 – 1965
Jim Brown was born on February 17, 1936, in St. Simons, Georgia. Brown was drafted out of Syracuse by the Cleveland Browns in 1957. He was a Pro Bowler in all 9 seasons and was First-Team All-Pro 8 times. He lead the league in rushing 8 times in his 9 seasons. In 118 career games, Brown rushed for 12,3112 yards and 106 rushing touchdowns. Jim Brown was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971.
C: Earl Campbell, 1978 – 1985
Earl Campbell was born on March 29, 1955, in Tyler, Texas. Campbell was drafted out of Texas by the Houston Oilers in 1978. He was a 5 time Pro Bowler and 3 time First-Team All-Pro. Campbell lead the league in rushing his first 3 seasons. The wear and tear on his body during his first few seasons diminished his skills rather quickly, but Campbell still finished his career with 9,407 yards rushing and 74 rushing touchdowns. Earl Campbell was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
D: Eric Dickerson, 1983 – 1993
Eric Dickerson was born on September 2, 1960, in Sealy, Texas. Dickerson was drafted out of Southern Methodist University by the Los Angeles Rams in 1983. He was a 6 time Pro Bowler and 5 time First-Team All-Pro. Dickerson lead the league in rushing 4 times,and holds the season season record for most yards in a season, with 2,105. He retired with 13,259 rushing yards and 90 rushing touchdowns. Eric Dickerson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.
Tony Dorsett, 1977 – 1988
Tony Dorsett was born on April 7, 1954, in Rochester, Pennsylvania. Dorsett was drafted out of Pittsburgh by the Dallas Cowboys in 1977. He was a 4 time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 1981. Dorsett rushed for 1,000 or more yards 8 times in his career. He was a member of the Cowboys team that won Super Bowl XII. Dorsett finished his career with 12,739 yards rushing and 77 rushing touchdowns. Tony Dorsett was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
E: Gerry Ellis, 1980 – 1986
Gerry Ellis was born on November 12, 1957, in Columbia, Missouri. Ellis was drafted out of Missouri by the Los Angeles Rams in 1980. Ellis never played for the Rams, but played for the Green Bay Packers for 7 seasons. His best season was 1981, when he rushed for 860 yards, caught 65 passes for 499 yards and scored 7 touchdowns. Gerry Ellis ended his career with 3,826 yards rushing, 2,514 yards receiving, and 35 touchdowns.
F: Marshall Faulk, 1994 – 2005
Marshall Faulk was born on February 23, 1973, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Faulk was drafted out of San Diego State by the Indianapolis Colts in 1994. He was a 7 time Pro Bowler and 3 time First-Team All-Pro. Faulk rushed for over 1,000 yards 7 times. He is a Super Bowl champion, and finished his career with 12,279 yards rushing, 767 receptions for 6,785 yards and 136 total touchdowns. Marshall Faulk was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
G: Eddie George, 1996 – 2004
Eddie George was born on September 24, 1973, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. George was drafted out of Ohio State by the Houston Oilers in 1996. He was a 4 time Pro Bowlers and First-Team All-Pro in 2000. George rushed for over 1,000 yards in 7 seasons. Eddie George retired in 2004 at the age of 31 with 10,441 rushing yards and 76 rushing touchdowns.
H: Franco Harris, 1972 – 1984
Franco Harris was born on March 7, 1950 in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Harris was drafted out of Penn State by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972. He was a 9 time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 1977. Harris rushed for over 1,000 yards in 8 seasons. He was a 4 time Super Bowl champion and MVP of Super Bowl IX. Harris finished his career with 12,120 yards rushing and 91 rushing touchdowns. Franco Harris was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
I: Eddie Lee Ivery, 1979 – 1986
Eddie Lee Ivery was born on July 30, 1957, in McDuffie, Georgia. Ivery was drafted out of Georgia Tech by the Green Bay Packers in 1979. His best season was in 1980 when he rushed for 831 yards, caught 50 passes for 481 yards and scored 4 touchdowns. Eddie Lee Ivery retired following the 1986 season with 2,933 rushing yards, 1,612 receiving yards, and 30 touchdowns.
J: Edgerrin James, 1999 – 2009
Edgerrin James was born on August 1, 1978, in Immokalee, Florida. James was drafted out of Miami (Florida) by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999. He was a 4 time Pro Bowler and First-Team All Pro in 1999 when he lead the league in rushing. James rushed for 1,000 or more yards in 7 seasons. He retired with 12,246 rushing yards, 433 receptions for 3,364 yards and 91 total touchdowns.
K: Leroy Kelly, 1964 – 1973
Leroy Kelly was born on May 20, 1942, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Kelly was drafted out of Morgan State by the Cleveland Browns in 1964. He was a 6 time Pro Bowler and 3 time First-Team All-Pro. Kelly lead the league in rushing in 1967 and 1968. He retired with 7,274 yards rushing and 70 rushing touchdowns. Leroy Kelly was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
L: Jamal Lewis, 2000 – 2009
Jamal Lewis was born on August 29, 1979, in Atlanta, Georgia. Lewis was drafted out of Tennessee by the Baltimore Ravens in 2000. He was a Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 2003 when he lead the league in rushing with 2,006 yards. Jamal Lewis retired at the age of 30 with 10,607 yards rushing and 58 rushing touchdowns.
M: Curtis Martin, 1995 – 2005
Curtis Martin was born on May 1, 1973, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was drafted out of Pittsburgh in 1995 by the New England Patriots. He was a 5 time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 2004. Martin rushed for over 1,000 yards 10 times and lead the league in rushing in 2004. He retired with 14,101 rushing yards and 100 total touchdowns. Curtis Martin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
N: Jim Nance, 1965 – 1973
Jim Nance was born on December 30, 1942 in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Nance was drafted out of Syracuse by the Chicago Bears of the NFL and the Boston Patriots of the AFL in 1965. He played for Boston for 6 years, and lead the AFL in rushing in 1966 and 1967. He finished his career with the New England Patriots and New York Jets. Jim Nance rushed for 5,401 yards and scored 65 career rushing touchdowns. Jim Nance passed away on June 16, 1992.
O: Christian Okoye, 1987 – 1992
Christian Okoye was born on August 16, 1961, in Enugu, Nigeria. Okoye was drafted out of Azusu Pacific by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1987. He was a 2 time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 1989. He lead the league in rushing attempts and rushing yards in 1989. Okoye retired after 6 seasons with 4,897 yards rushing and 40 touchdowns.
P: Walter Payton, 1975 – 1987
Walter Payton was born on July 25, 1954, in Columbia, Mississippi. Payton was drafted out of Jackson State by the Chicago Bears in 1975. He was a 9 time Pro Bowler and 5 time First-Team All-Pro. Payton lead the league in rushing yards in 1977, and rushed for over 1,000 in 10 seasons. He helped lead the Bears to a victory in Super Bowl XX and was a member of the NFL All-Decade team for the 1970s and 1980s. Payton finished his career with 16,726 rushing yards and 110 rushing touchdowns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993. Walter Payton passed away on November 1, 1999.
Q: Skeet Quinlan, 1952 – 1956
Skeet Quinlan was born on June 22, 1928, in San Angelo, Texas. Quinlan attended TCU and San Diego State, and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1952. He rushed for 1,514 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns in his 5 year career. Skeet Quinlan passed away on January 18, 1998.
R: John Riggins, 1971 – 1985
John Riggins was born on August 4, 1949, in Seneca, Kansas. Riggins was drafted out of Kansas by the New York Jets in 1971. He was a Pro Bowler once and First-Team All-Pro once. Riggins lead the league in rushing touchdowns in 1983 and 1984, and 5 times rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season. He was the MVP in the Redskins’ Super Bowl XVII victory. Riggins retired with 11,352 yards rushing and 104 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.
S: Emmitt Smith, 1990 – 2004
Emmitt Smith was born on May 15, 1969, in Pensacola, Florida. Smith was drafted out of Florida by the Dallas Cowboys in 1990. He was an 8 time Pro Bowler and 4 time First-Team All-Pro. Smith had 11 consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more yards rushing. He lead the league in rushing 4 times and was a 3 time Super Bowl champion. Smith retired with 18,355 rushing yards and 164 rushing touchdowns. Emmitt Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
Barry Sanders, 1989 – 1998
Barry Sanders was born on July 16, 1968, in Wichita, Kansas. Sanders was drafted out of Oklahoma State by the Detroit Lions in 1989. He was a 10 time Pro Bowler and 6 time First-Team All-Pro. Sanders rushed for over 1,000 in all 10 NFL seasons, averaged over 1,500 yards rushing per season, and lead the league in rushing 4 times. Barry Sanders retired with 15,269 rushing yards, 99 rushing touchdowns and 5.0 yards per carry average. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.
T: LaDanian Tomlinson, 2001 – 2011
LaDanian Tomlinson was born on June 23, 1979, in Rosebud, Texas. Tomlinson was drafted out of TCU by the San Diego Chargers in 2001. He was a 5 time Pro Bowler and 3 time First-Team All-Pro. Tomlinson rushed for over 1,000 yards in 8 seasons, and lead the league in rushing twice. LaDanian Tomlinson retired following the 2011 season with 13,684 rushing yards and 145 rushing touchdowns.
U: Andy Uram, 1938 – 1943
Andy Uram was born on March 21, 1915, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Uram was drafted out of Minnesota by the Green Bay Packers in 1938. He played 6 seasons in the NFL, had a career long 97 yard run, 90 yard punt return, and 98 yard kickoff return. Andy Uram retired with 1,073 rushing yards, 1,083 receiving yards, and 8 total touchdowns. He passed away on December 9, 1984.
V: Steve Van Buren, 1944 – 1951
Steve Van Buren was born on December 28, 1920, in La Ceiba, Honduras. Van Buren was drafted out of Louisiana State by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1944. He was a 5 time First-Team All-Pro, and lead the league in rushing yards in 1945, 1947, 1948, and 1949. The best running back of his era, Van Buren lead the Eagles to championships in 1948 and 1949. He retired with 5,860 rushing yards and 69 touchdowns. Steve Van Buren was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965. He passed away on August 23, 2012.
W: Ricky Watters
Ricky Watters was born on April 7, 1969, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was drafted out of Notre Dame by the San Francisco 49ers in 1991. He was a 5 time Pro Bowler who rushed for over 1,000 yards in 7 seasons. Watters had his best season in 1996 with the Philadelphia Eagles when he rushed for 1,411 yards and 13 touchdowns. Ricky Watters retired with 10,643 rushing yards, 4,248 receiving yards, and 91 touchdowns.
Y: Ricky Young, 1975 – 1983
Rickey Young was born on December 7, 1953, in Mobile, Alabama. Young was drafted out of Jackson State by the San Diego Chargers in 1975. He played for the Chargers and Minnesota Vikings during his 9 year career. Young’s best season rushing was in 1976 when he ran for 802 yards. He lead the league with 88 receptions in 1978. Ricky Young retired with 3,666 yards rushing, 3,285 yards receiving, and 39 total touchdowns.
Z: Amos Zereoue, 1999 – 2005
Amos Zereoue was born on October 8, 1976, in Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Africa. Zereoue was drafted out of West Virginia by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1999. He played for the Steelers, Oakland Raiders, and New England Patriots during his 6 year career. Zereoue’s best season was 2002 when he rushed for 762 yards and 4 touchdowns. He retired with 2,137 rushing yards, 1,111 receiving yards , and 11 touchdowns.
Honorable mention: Jerome Bettis, Larry Csonka, Roger Craig, Corey Dillon, Frank Gifford, John Henry Johnson, Floyd Little, Lenny Moore, Ollie Matson, Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, John Taylor, Fred Taylor, Thurman Thomas