Ranking the 20 Best Heisman Winners in NFL History
The Heisman Trophy award began in 1935, and over the years, winners of the award have tried to extend their careers in professional football to varied levels of success.
With the recent wave of Heisman Trophy winners, including Robert Griffin III and Mark Ingram, taking on key roles for NFL teams, we thought it would be an interesting exercise to see how many Heisman winners were able to make a solid impression at the next level.
Some Heisman winners were more a product of a college system, while others proved that they were still just as dominate in the pros as they were in college. For a select few, they were able to extend excellence to the NFL above and beyond, by being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In this presentation, we will focus on the Heisman Trophy winners from 1954 to the present. From that pool of candidates, we will select the top 20 players who went on to have successful NFL careers. By a successful career, we are looking for players who lasted at least five years and excelled at their position. You will see the vast majority of this group qualified for Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams during their NFL careers.
20) Mike Garrett
Mike Garrett was a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1966 to 1970, and the San Diego Chargers from 1970-1973. Garrett won the Heisman Trophy award in 1965, as a running back from the University of Southern California. In fact, Garrett was just one of many great backs from USC, which includes O.J. Simpson, Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, Charles White, and Marcus Allen.
Coming out of college, the AFL teams must have thought he was going to join the NFL, because the Los Angeles Rams drafted the local product out of USC with the No. 18 overall pick in the 1966 draft. The Kansas City Chiefs took a flyer on Garrett by drafting him in the 20th round and surprisingly Garrett opted to join the Chiefs of the AFL, instead.
During his career, Garrett was voted to two AFL All-Star teams in 1966 and 1967. His career totals show that Garrett played in a total of 104 games. He rushed the ball 1,308 times for a total of 5,481 yards, good for an average of 4.2 yards per carry. He also caught 238 passes for a total of 2,010 yards. Garrett scored 49 touchdowns in his career, 35 via the rush, 13 as a receiver, and one on a punt return.
Garrett was part of the Chiefs team that won Super Bowl IV, when they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-7.
19) George Rogers
George Rogers was a running back for the New Orleans Saints from 1981 to 1984, and for the Washington Redskins from 1985 to 1987. Rogers was a running back at South Carolina, and was voted as the Heisman Trophy award winner in 1980.
The Saints made Rogers the No. 1 overall draft choice in 1981. Rogers went on to be named to the Pro Bowl team as a rookie, and then in 1982. He was voted the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1981, and was a member of the Washington Redskins Super Bowl XXII team that defeated the Denver Broncos 42-10.
During his career, Rogers played in 92 games in the NFL. He ran the ball 1,692 times for 7,176 yards, and scored 54 rushing touchdowns. Interestingly enough, in 55 career receptions, he never scored on a pass reception. Rogers averaged 4.2 yards per rush in his career.
Rogers led the NFL as a rookie in three categories: most rushes (378), most rushing yards (1,674) and highest rushing average per game (104.6). In addition, he led the NFL in 1986 by scoring 18 rushing touchdowns.
18) Doug Flutie
Doug Flutie played quarterback for a number of teams from the NFL, USFL and CFL. For our purposes here, we are focusing on his NFL career only. Flutie played for the Chicago Bears in 1986; New England Patriots from 1987 to 1989; Buffalo Bills 1998 to 2000; San Diego Chargers 2001 to 2004; and then back to the Patriots in 2005.
Flutie was the kind of quarterback who everybody rooted for. He was small for an NFL quarterback at only 5-foot-10, but he played with a big heart and was fearless. He was also tough, as he was able to endure 107 career sacks during an era when NFL referees weren't doing as much to protect quarterbacks as they do now.
He won the Heisman Trophy award in 1984, as a quarterback for Boston College. His Hail Mary pass to defeat the University of Miami on the final play of the game has been replayed thousands of times.
Flutie was drafted with the 285th overall pick by the Los Angeles Rams in the 11th round of the NFL draft in 1985, but he never played for the Rams. He was elected to the Pro Bowl in 1998, the same year that he won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.
During his NFL career, Flutie played in 92 games. He completed 1,177 passes out of 2,151 attempts for a completion percentage of 54.7. Flutie threw for 14,715 yards and had 86 career touchdown passes to 68 interceptions. His QB Passer Rating was 76.3. Because of his mobility and quickness, Flutie was a threat to run with the ball. He had 338 career rushes for 1,634 yards and 10 career rushing touchdowns. You might consider him "Tebow light."
17) Billy Sims
Billy Sims was a running back for the Detroit Lions from 1980 to 1984.
Sims won the Heisman Trophy in 1978 as a running back for the University of Oklahoma. I happened to be attending Oklahoma for my Master's Degree that year, and can attest to what a special back he was. That year Sims was the most dominating player in the country.
It was not a major surprise when the Detroit Lions made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1980 draft.
During his career, Sims was elected to the Pro Bowl for each of the first three seasons of his career. He was voted First-Team All-Pro in 1981, and was voted Second-Team All-Pro as a rookie. He was voted as the UPI NFL Rookie of the Year, and, too, was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
In his career, Sims played in only 60 career NFL games before retiring because of a blown out knee. In 1984, surgeons and medicine weren't as advanced as they are now.
As for career totals, Sims had an average rush of 4.5 yards. He ran for 5,106 yards, averaging over a 1,000 yards per season. He scored 42 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 186 passes for 2,072 yards, averaging 11.1 yards per catch. He had five receiving touchdowns.
Sims was one of the honored Lions to wear the No. 20 jersey, joining Barry Sanders and Lem Barney.
16) Paul Hornung
Paul Hornung was primarily a running back for the Green Bay Packers, though he also kicked for the team. He ran out of either the halfback or fullback position. Hornung played from 1957 to 1962, and then from 1964-1966. He sat out the 1963 season because of the suspension imposed on him and Alex Karros for betting on NFL games.
Hornung won the Heisman Trophy award as a running back out of Notre Dame in 1956. The following year, the Green Bay Packers made him the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 1957 NFL draft.
During his NFL career, Hornung was named to two Pro Bowl teams, and was also named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1960s. He was voted as the NFL MVP in 1961, and elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the class of 1986. In 1960, Hornung led the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns. In 1964, Hornung led the NFL with 38 field goal attempts.
The following is part of his bio on the Pro Football Hall of Fame web site:
Multi-talented clutch player, at best inside 20-yard line. . .NFL Player of Year, 1960, 1961. . .Led NFL scorers three years with record 176 points in 1960. . .Career stats: 3,711 yards rushing, 130 receptions, 760 points. . .
Career stats for Hornung are 104 NFL games, rushed 893 times for 3,711 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. 50 rushing touchdowns. 130 receptions for 1,480 yards and 12 touchdown receptions. Averaged 11.4 yards per catch. Made 66 out of 140 field goal attempts, for an overall percentage of 47.1. Completed 190 out of 194 extra point attempts.
15) Ricky Williams
Ricky Williams, running back for the New Orleans Saints (1999 to 2001), Miami Dolphins (2002 to 2003, 2005, and 2007-2010) and Baltimore Ravens (2011).
Williams was a running back for the University of Texas in 1998. In 1999, the Saints drafted him with the No. 5 overall draft pick.
By far the best year of his career was 2002. Williams was named to the Pro Bowl team, as well as to the All-Pro team. He led the NFL in rushing that year and was also the Pro Bowl MVP. He is a member of the NFL 10,000 Rushing Yards Club. That year Williams also led the NFL in rushing attempts and average rushing yards per game (115.8). Williams wound up leading the NFL in rushing attempts in 2003 as well.
The jury is still out if Williams will return to the NFL. He might decide to retire, but with Williams, he has been known to change his mind on more than one occasion. As it stands right now, his career totals look like this: 147 NFL games, 2,431 rushes for 10,009 yards and 66 rushing touchdowns. Average gain of 4.1 yards per rush. 342 receptions for 2,606 yards and eight touchdown receptions. Williams averaged 7.6 yards per reception.
14) Herschel Walker
Herschel Walker was a running back for the Dallas Cowboys (1986 to 1989), Minnesota Vikings (1989 to 1991), Philadelphia Eagles (1992 to 1994), New York Giants (1995) and Cowboys (1996 to 1997).
Walker was a running back for the University of Georgia when he won the Heisman Trophy in 1982. He decided to play for the USFL, and didn't join the NFL until the 1986 season.
During his career, Walker was named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams twice, in 1997 and 1998. Looking at his NFL career stats, Walker played in 187 NFL games, where he rushed 1,954 times for 8,225 yards. He gained an average of 4.2 yards per rush and scored 61 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 512 passes for 4,859 yards, for 21 touchdown passes and an average of 9.5 yards per reception.
Walker had the longest touchdown of the year in the NFL in both 1986 (84 yards) and 1994 (91 yards). He led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 1987 with 1,606 yards. In 1988, Walker topped 2,000 combined yards. He was the rage in the NFL then, so the Cowboys traded Walker away at his peak to the Minnesota Vikings for five players and six draft picks. That trade allowed Dallas to turn its franchise around.
13) Vinny Testaverde
Vinny Testaverde was the quarterback for the University of Miami (Florida), and won the Heisman Trophy in 1986. Testaverde was made the No. 1 overall draft pick the following year by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Testaverde had a long career in the NFL, and he definitely bounced around. He played for the Buccaneers (1987 to 1992), Cleveland Browns (1993 to 1995), Baltimore Ravens (1996 to 1997), New York Jets (1998 to 2003), Dallas Cowboys (2004), Jets (2005), New England Patriots (2006), and Carolina Panthers (2007) before he finally retired.
During his career, Testaverde played on two Pro Bowl teams and was voted All-Pro in 1998, one of the best years of his career.
His career stats read like this: Played in 233 NFL games. Completed 3,787 passes out of 6,701 attempts for a completion percentage of 56.5 percent. Threw for 46,223 yards and passed for 275 touchdowns compared to 267 interceptions. His career QB Passing Ratio was 75.0. Testaverde also rushed 430 times for 1,661 yards and 15 touchdowns. Had an average of 3.9 yards per rush.
12) Jim Plunkett
Jim Plunkett was a quarterback at Stanford University when he won the Heisman Trophy award in 1970. Plunkett was made the No. 1 overall draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1971. Plunkett played for New England (1971 to 1975), San Francisco (1976 to 1977), and the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders (1978 to 1986).
Plunkett had the distinction of being on two Super Bowl winning teams (Super Bowl XV and XVIII). He was the MVP of Super Bowl XV. He won the UPI AFC Rookie of the Year award in 1971, and the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 1980.
Plunkett was never voted on to Pro Bowl teams or All-Pro teams. Instead, he won Super Bowl games.
Plunkett's career stats reads like this: 157 NFL games, completed 1,943 passes out of 3,701 attempts for a completion percentage of 52.5 percent. Threw for 25,882 yards, 164 touchdowns and 198 interceptions. His QB Passer Rating was 67.5. He ran the ball 323 times for 1,337 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.
11) Eddie George
Eddie George won the Heisman Trophy in 1995 while he was a running back for Ohio State. The following season, the Houston Oilers selected George in the first round with the No. 14 overall pick.
George played for Houston from 1996 to 2003, which included the various name changes of the franchise from the Tennessee Oilers and the Tennessee Titans. He concluded his NFL career by playing for the Dallas Cowboys in 2004.
He was named to four Pro Bowl teams and was voted First-Team All-Pro in 2000 and Second-Team All-Pro in 1999. He is also a member of the NFL 10,000 Rushing Yards Club. George won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 1996.
In his career, George played in 141 NFL games. He rushed the ball 2,865 times for 10,441 yards, an average of only 3.6 yards per rush. He scored 68 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 268 passes for 2,227 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns.
10) Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer was the quarterback at USC when he won the Heisman Trophy award in 2002. The Cincinnati Bengals made him the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2003 draft. Palmer played for the Bengals from 2003 to 2010, until he staged his infamous retirement or trade me strike against the Bengals. The Bengals finally obliged him, and he was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2011, where he is still active.
In his career, Palmer was voted to Pro Bowl teams and named the Pro Bowl MVP in 2006. He was also named the AFC Player of the Year in 2005, and won the Ed Block Courage award in 2006.
So far coming into the 2012 season, here is what Palmer has done regarding career stats: Played in 107 NFL games, completing 2,223 passes out of 3,545 attempts for a completion percentage of 62.7. Threw for 167 touchdowns compared to 116 interceptions. Has thrown for 25,447 yards. Not known as a great rusher, has ran the ball 195 times for 336 yards and six touchdowns. Has an average of 1.7 yards per rush.
9) Alan Ameche
Alan Ameche played fullback and linebacker for the University of Wisconsin, which is where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1954. The Baltimore Colts drafted Ameche in the first round of the 1955 NFL Draft with the No. 3 overall pick. Ameche played fullback for the Colts from 1955 to 1960.
For his NFL career, Ameche won the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 1955. He was selected to the Pro Bowl game in four of the five years that he played. He was also voted as a First-Team All-Pro in 1955, and named to the NFL All-Decade team of the 1950s. That showed you how great he was, making the All-Decade team despite playing in only five years of that decade.
Ameche was a member of the 1958 and 1959 NFL Championship teams in Baltimore. In 70 career NFL games, Ameche rushed the ball 964 times for 4,045 yards, good for an average of 4.2 yards per attempt. He scored 40 rushing touchdowns. He also made 101 receptions for 773 yards and four touchdown catches. Ameche is also remembered for scoring the winning touchdown in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, which is referred to as the "Greatest Game Ever Played."
Photo courtesy of http://www.ebay.com/itm/PHOTO-ALAN-AMECHE-BALTIMORE-COLTS-NFL-PRO-BOWL-FOOTBALL-HEISMAN-TROPHY-1954-/120848798869
8) Charles Woodson
Charles Woodson was a corrnerback for the University of Michigan, and won the Heisman Trophy award in 1997. The Oakland Raiders selected Woodson in the 1998 NFL Draft with the No. 4 overall pick.
Woodson played for the Raiders from 1998 to 2005. He joined the Green Bay Packers in 2006, and has been playing for Green Bay ever since. From the Packers training camp, it appears that this year the Packers might be moving Woodson to safety. We will see if this move actually prolongs his career or not.
During Woodson's career he has won a number of awards and accolades. He was the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He has been elected to eight Pro Bowl teams and to seven All-Pro teams. He was part of the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl XLV team that beat Pittsburgh.
Woodson also won the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2009. That year he was tied for the lead in the NFL for interceptions with Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills. He tied again for the NFL lead in interceptions in 2011, this time with Eric Weddle and Kyle Arrington.
Woodson has the distinction of being one of the cornerbacks on the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 2000s. Another feather in his cap is that he is a member of the NFL 50 Interceptions Club. In his career, Woodson has been credited with 881 tackles, 54 interceptions, 12 touchdowns, 28 forced fumbles, and 15.5 sacks.
7) Tony Dorsett
Tony Dorsett, running back for the Dallas Cowboys, won the Heisman Trophy award in 1976 while he was playing for the University of Pittsburgh. Dorsett was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1977 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Dorsett played for Dallas from 1977 to 1987, and for the Denver Broncos (1988).
During his career, Dorsett was on the Cowboys team that won Super Bowl XII. He was elected to four Pro Bowl teams and was First-Team All-Pro in 1981. He was named to two different Second-Team All-Pro teams.
For his career, Dorsett played in 173 NFL games. He rushed the ball 2,936 times for 12,739 yards and 77 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry. In addition, Dorsett caught 398 passes for 3,554 yards and another 13 touchdowns. He averaged 8.9 yards per reception.
Dorsett was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the class of 1994. From his bio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Draft-day trade made him Cowboys’ No. 1 pick, 1977 ... Played in two Super Bowls, five NFC championship games, four Pro Bowls ... All-NFL, 1981 ... NFC rushing champion, 1982 ... Career totals: 12,739 yards rushing; 398 receptions for 3,554 yards, 16,347 combined net yards, 91 touchdowns ... Ran record 99 yards for TD vs. Minnesota, 1983.
6) Marcus Allen
Marcus Allen, running back for the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, won the Heisman Trophy award in 1981, when he was a star running back at USC. The Los Angeles Raiders made Allen the No. 10 overall pick in the 1982 NFL draft. Allen played for the Raiders from 1982 to 1992, and then the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993 to 1997.
Allen was named to six Pro Bowl teams during his career, in addition to two First-Team All-Pro teams and one Second-Team All-Pro team. He played on the Raiders Super Bowl XVIII championship team and was the Super Bowl MVP winner.
There was no question that Allen had a great career in the NFL. He was the NFL MVP award winner in 1985. In 1993 he won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. In 1985 he was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award. In 1982, Allen was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award winner.
Some of the highlights of his statistical achievements: Played in 222 NFL games. Had 3,022 rushes for 12,243 yards. Average gain of 4.1 yards per rush. Scored 123 rushing touchdowns. Caught 587 passes for 5,411 yards, 21 touchdown receptions and an average of 9.2 yards per reception.
Allen was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. From Allen's bio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame web site:
Selected by Raiders in first round, 1982 draft ... 1981 Heisman Trophy winner ... NFL Rookie of the Year, 1982 ... Super Bowl XVIII MVP ... NFL MVP in 1985 ... First player in NFL history to rush for 10,000-plus yards and catch passes for 5,000 more ... Career totals: 12,243 yards rushing, 5,411 yards receiving, 145 TDs ... All-Pro 1982, 1985 ... All-AFC four times ... Named to six Pro Bowls.
5) O. J. Simpson
O.J. Simpson, running back for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, won the Heisman Trophy award in 1968. Just like Marcus Allen, Simpson was also one of the star running backs that USC was cranking out.
Simpson was the No. 1 overall draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1969. He played for the Bills from 1969-1977 and then played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1978-1979.
Just some of his accomplishments in the NFL include: elected to six Pro Bowl teams. Five time All-Pro selection, was the NFL rushing champion four different years (1972, 1973, 1975, and 1976). Voted to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Member of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1970s. In 1973, Simpson was the NFL MVP, the NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and the Pro Bowl MVP. He won the AFL Player of the Year award three times (1972, 1973, and 1975).
NFL.com rated Simpson as the No. 40 player of All-TIme in NFL History (as of the 2009 season). As for his career stats, Simpson played in 135 games in the NFL. He ran the ball 2,404 times for 11,236 yards, 61 rushing touchdowns, and an average gain of 4.7 yards per rush. He caught 203 passes for 2,142 yards, which was an average of 10.6 yards per catch. Scored on 14 touchdown receptions.
Simpson was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. From the Pro Football Hall of Fame.com, here is part of Simpson's bio background:
Orenthal James Simpson. . .Heisman Trophy winner, 1968. . .No. 1 NFL draft pick, 1969. . .Career highlighted by 2,003 yards rushing, 1973. . . Unanimous All-Pro, topped 1,000 yards rushing, 1972-1976. . .Won four NFL rushing titles. . . Career record: 11,236 yards rushing, 203 receptions, 990 yards kickoff returns, 14,368 combined net yards. . .In 1969 AFL All-Star game, five Pro Bowls. . .1973 Pro Bowl Player of the Game. .
4) Roger Staubach
Roger Staubach, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, won the Heisman Trophy award in 1963, while he was playing quarterback for Navy. Staubach was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1964 but didn't start to play for them until 1969, after he completed a required stint in the Navy. He was with the Cowboys from 1969 to 1979.
Staubach was elected to six Pro Bowl teams, and was selected to five All-NFC teams. He was the MVP of Super Bowl VI and played on two teams that won the Super Bowl (VI and XII). Staubach was voted as a member of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1970s. He was voted as the No. 46 NFL player of All-Time by NFL.com.
In his career, Staubach played in 131 NFL games. He completed 1,685 passes out of 2,958 attempts for a completion percentage of 57 percent. He threw for 22,700 yards, 153 touchdowns and 109 interceptions. His QB Passer Rating was 83.4. He also rushed the ball 410 times for 2,264 yards and scored 20 times on the ground. He had an impressive average of 5.5 yards per rush.
Staubach was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, along with O.J. Simpson. From the Pro Football Hall of Fame, here is Staubach's bio info:
Roger Thomas Staubach. . .1963 Heisman Trophy winner. . . Four-year Navy service preceded pro play. . .Noted for last-minute heroics, guided Dallas to four NFC titles, Super Bowl VI, XII wins. . .MVP in Super Bowl VI. . .All-NFC five years . . .Career stats: 22,700 yards, 153 TDs passing; 2,264 yards, 20 TDs rushing. . .83.4 NFL passer rating best ever at time of retirement. . .Four-time NFL passing leader. . .
3) Tim Brown
Tim Brown, wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders (and Los Angeles Raiders) won the Heisman Trophy in 1987. Brown won the Heisman Trophy while he was a wide receiver at Notre Dame. Brown played for the Raiders from 1988 to 2003, and then played in 2004 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brown was selected by the Raiders with the No. 6 overall draft pick in 1988. During his career, Brown was named to nine Pro Bowl teams, and was a Second-Team All-Pro pick once. He was named to six AFC All-Conference Teams. Brown was voted on as a member of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
In his career, Brown played in 255 NFL games. He caught 1,094 receptions for 14,934 yards. He scored on 100 touchdown receptions and averaged 13.7 yards per catch.
Brown hasn't been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet, as he has been part of a three-way logjam of all-time great wide receivers that the Hall of Fame has been stuck on for years. The gifted trio consists of Brown, Cris Carter and Andre Reed. Until one of these three make it in, the group is causing the voters to divide their votes, and then none of them are getting the necessary votes to make it in to the Hall. Brown has been a Hall of Finalist in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
2) Earl Campbell
Earl Campbell, running back for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints, won the Heisman Trophy in 1977, when he was playing for the University of Texas. The following year, the Houston Oilers made him the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1978.
Campbell played for the Houston Oilers from 1978 to 1984, and for the New Orleans Saints from 1984 to 1985.
During his career, Campbell was named to five Pro Bowl teams and three All-Pro teams. He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1978, and was the AP NFL MVP in 1979. He also won the NFL rushing championship three consecutive years (1978, 1979, and 1980). He was voted as the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1978,1979, and 1980.
As for his career stats, Campbell played in 115 NFL games. He ran the ball 2,187 times and gained 9,407 yards, for an average gain of 4.3 yards per carry. He scored 74 rushing touchdowns. Campbell also caught 121 passes for 806 yards but never caught a touchdown pass in his career. He averaged 6.7 yards per catch.
Campbell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. Here is part of his bio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.com:
Earl Christian Campbell. . .First player taken in 1978 NFL Draft. . . Texas All-America, Heisman Trophy winner. . .NFL rushing champion, Player of Year, All-Pro, Pro Bowl choice, 1978, 1979, 1980. . .Career high 1,934 yards rushing including four 200-yard rushing games, 1980. . . Career stats: 9,407 yards, 74 TDs rushing, 121 receptions, 806 yards. . . Played in five Pro Bowls.
1) Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders, running back for the Detroit Lions, won the Heisman Trophy in 1988, while running the ball for Oklahoma State. Detroit picked up Sanders with the No. 3 overall pick of the 1989 draft. Sanders played for the Lions from 1989-1998.
Sanders had a tremendous number of awards that he amassed during his career, which included: 10 Pro Bowl games, 10 times All-Pro, 1989 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, led the NFL in rushing four times (1990, 1994, 1996, and 1997).
He was voted as the NFL MVP in 1997. From a historical perspective, Sanders was rated as the No. 1 most-elusive running back of All-Time by NFL.com. NFL.com also rated him as the No. 17 player of all time.
Sanders rushed for more than 2,000 yards in the 1997 season, the year before he retired. He is also a member of the NFL 10,000 Rushing Yards Club, and the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1990s. He is the third-leading rusher in NFL history.
Here are some highlights of the stats that Sanders generated: Played in 153 NFL games, rushing the ball 3,062 times for 15,269 yards. He scored 99 rushing touchdowns and had an average of 5.0 yards per rush. Sanders caught 352 passes for 2,921 yards and 10 touchdowns. He gained 8.3 yards on average per reception.
Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. As per his bio in the Pro Football Hall of Fame:
Barry Sanders. . .Detroit's first-round draft pick, 1989. . .Electrifying running style. . .First player to rush for 1,000 yards his first 10 seasons. . .Led NFL in rushing four times. . .NFL's MVP, 1997. . .Gained 2,053 yards including record 14 straight 100-yard games, 1997. . .Career rushing record: 15,269 yards, 99 TDs. . .First- or second-team All-NFL each of his 10 seasons. . .Selected to 10 Pro Bowls. .
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