Many great running backs have graced the NFL with their presence. All of them share certain attributes that make them great, but some bring their own unique style to the game that makes them special. From Jim Brown's grit and determination to Gale Sayers' speed and agility, each one possess' talents that make them unique and exciting to watch.
These are some of the guys that had the attention of the entire defense as well as the fans when they took the field. You never knew what would happen, or when they were going to take it to the house. They almost always left the defense looking ridiculous, and always left the spectators wowed and wanting more.
I have compiled a list of some of the most exciting backs ever to have played the game. It may be one of the most opinionated and highly debatable lists that can be assembled since everyone’s idea of what makes for an exciting back is so different.
It is important to keep in mind that this is not a list of the "best" running backs to ever play the game, but "most exciting". Some of the determining factors for the list included speed, agility, strength, and determination, among others. Stats and years played were not factored into the list.
Many talented backs had to be left off the list, but that's the nature of the beast. Please respond to the ones that you also enjoyed, or enjoy watching, and ones that you would have included in your list.
P.S. I'm going to try and write something for each back about what made them special, so check back for updates. In the meantime, don't forget to vote on the poll to your right.
- Walter Payton
What can I say about this guy? He was incredible, he was amazing, he was out of this world. He had it all, speed, agility, power, and determination. Tacklers seemed to just bounce off the man. He refused to go down. Watching the highlight reels is jaw dropping. His use of the stiff arm and his leaping ability around the goal line is what stood out the most to me. Whether the “S” on his chest stood for Superman or “Sweetness”, it was definitely there. Anyone who says he's not the most exciting back to ever play the game is probably too young to have seen him play and/or hasn't taken the time to look up the highlights. If you haven't, stop reading this, and do it now.
- Gale Sayers You might think it would be pretty hard to put "Sweetness" above "The Kansas Comet" on a "most exciting" running backs list, and you would be correct. Sayers possessed the same great skills that payton held. Speed, agility, vision, and quickness. I won't speculate on who was faster or who was more agile because it really wouldn't be fair to either one. All I know, is both were extremely dominating when they played the game. They didn't do it with carry, after carry, after carry, like some running backs, but instead with huge runs that ended in touchdowns. Sayers not only ran the ball, but returned kicks and punts as well. In his rookie year, he set a record for most touchdowns in a 12 game season at 22, while compiling an astonishing 1,374 yards from scrimmage. One of the highlight films I watched stated that he was averaging a touchdown every ten touches or so. Now that's impressive. He was averaging 6.2 yards per carry in only his fourth season in the NFL, when he was sidelined by an injury. The only edge I could give Payton over Sayers was his power running and his use of the stiff arm. But then again no one ever got close enough to Sayers for him to showcase his power running abilities. Other notables: 4 Time Pro bowler; 3 Time Pro bowl MVP
- Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders might be the most elusive running back in the history of the NFL, but sometimes got on my nerves with all the running around in the backfield. I think some of my favorite Barry Sanders moments were produced by Tecmo Bowl. Taking it 99 yards to the house with eleven defenders following in the ever so popular, up, down, up, down, up, down motion.
Sanders ranks third all time in rushing yards behind Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton, at 15,269 with 99tds and a shocking 5.0 yds per carry. What might be the most shocking though is that he did it with the horrible Detroit Lions of the 90's. In ten years of play, Sanders never produced a season under 1,000 yds. Five of his seasons were over 1500 yds and one season totalled 2,053. His lowest total in those ten years was 1993 with 1,115 yds produced, but that was done in just eleven games.
Some people have referred to Sanders as an "ankle braker" due to his quick change of direction. In fact, he was responsible for Rod Woodson injuring his knee on one such play. Sanders was elected to the pro bowl in each of the ten years he played and holds the record for most consecutive seasons with over 1,000 yds rushing at 10. In 1997 he had 14 games where he rushed for over 100 yds, which is also an NFL record.
Why is he ranked #3 again?
- O.J. Simpson
- Bo Jackson
- Jim Brown
- Marshall Faulk
- Earl Campbell
- Adrian Peterson
- LaDainian Tomlinson