Former 49ers running back Glen Coffee's abrupt departure from the NFL on Friday after one season in the league got me thinking.
Apparently, "his heart wasn't in the sport," which, I guess is a PR-friendly way of saying "I have my whole life ahead of me, and I'd rather be coherent (and walking without a noticeable limp) for most of it."
It's widely known that running backs typically have the shortest tenures of any position in the league due to the steady pounding they take nearly every down.
Barry Sanders, the poster child for leaving the game before many believed his time was up, left the game healthy. A bonus for any running back.
But for some other backs (like say, Willie Parker this season), health became an issue far too soon. It seemed like for these backs, their 15 minutes in the limelight of an NFL backfield came and went faster than Paris Hilton's singing career.
So, I've compiled a list of 10 backs who left the gridiron too soon—be it because of injury or personal reasons-and left most fans to beg the question "whatever happened to that guy?"
Years Played: 1996 - 2001
Rushing Yards: 2,530
Rushing TDs: 14
Tshimanga. Tshimanga. TSHIMANNNGAAAAA!
Although Tim (Tshimanga) Biakabatuka's name sounds more like an evil battle cry, he'll likely never be forgotten as one of the more noteworthy RBs in Carolina's early history.
His college career at Michigan was nearly unmatched. His accolades include a 313-yard performance against Ohio St. in 1995, and a single season record of 1,818 rushing yards, which still stands to this date.
So, with all the success he had in college, you have to figure it translated to success in the pro game? Right?
Injuries cut short every single one of his five seasons in the league, with a career high of 718 yards in 1999 (with an impressive 5.2 YPC).
After retiring in 2001, "Touchdown Tim" took his talents to Augusta, Georgia, where he's the proud owner of two Bojangles restaurants.
Years Played: 1998 - 2000
Rushing Yards: 1,497
Rushing TDs: 4
Sometimes, you can just tell by looking at a name on paper that he won't be a success.
As was the case with Enis, whose hilariously phallic-sounding last name and degenerative knee condition cut short his NFL career with the Bears after a mere three seasons.
He had a dominant senior season at Penn State, and rushed for a modest 916 yards in 1999. Then, poof.
He found religion and a career in high school coaching soon followed.
Years Played: 1999 - 2003
Rushing Yards: 1,998
Rushing TDs: 11
Stud Terrell Davis' 1999 season came to an unexpected halt while trying to make a tackle on an interception return.
Enter, The Big O.
Olandis Gary, whose name probably makes more sense if reversed, stepped in and seamlessly filled Davis' cavernous shoes.
He rushed for 1159 yards on 276 carries in just 12 games. 12 games! A new king had been crowned in Denver!
A (surprise, surprise) knee injury wiped out Gary's 2000 season after just one game.
An endless array of no-name running backs (Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns, Selvin Young, Mike Bell, to name a few) would follow in Gary's footsteps and become brief rock stars as Denver's feature backs in the years to come, solidifying the sentiment that Denver's O-line and blocking scheme were the real stars, not the ones getting the hand-offs.
Gary would eventually get cast off to the Lions in 2003, never to be seen again (although it's rumored he's stuck under one of Wayne Fontes' fat rolls).
Years Played: 2000 - 2007
Rushing Yards: 3,722
Rushing TDs: 28
The "Thunder" to Tiki Barber's "Lightning," Dayne never quite lived up to his billing as the No. 11 pick in the 2000 draft (not to mention the tiny distinction as the NCAA's all-time leading rusher).
Never once eclipsing 1,000 yards, and even more surprisingly for a man of his, um, comprehensive stature, never once reaching double-digit TDs (his high was seven), Dayne has floundered from doghouse to doghouse.
Technically, he remains a free agent, but he hasn't seen the gridiron since the 2007 season when he rushed for 773 yards and six TDs with the Texans.
Years Played: 1998 - 2002
Rushing Yards: 1,222
Rushing TDs: 10
Remember him? Of course you do. Aside from Corey Dillon, he was the only other legitimate running back the Patriots' have had in the last decade.
The No. 18 pick out of UGA, Edwards showed immense promise after his first full season in New England.
And then, like any young, wealthy, overnight success story, he did something stupid.
He decided to play flag football in the sand.
Granted, Edwards' demise is probably more the NFL's fault than his own, since he was playing in an orchestrated rookie flag football game.
But, long story short, he blew out his knee and nearly had to have the thing amputated.
Four years later, Edwards made a brief comeback with the Dolphins, actually scoring two TDs (one rushing, one receiving) in his first game back. He would be the Dolphins' third-down back for the remainder of the year (sharing duties with the likes of Travis Minor and Leonard Henry), be relatively useless for fantasy purposes, and then eventually drift away into the CFL.
Years Played: 2001 - 2009
Rushing Yards: 6,096
Rushing TDs: 49
Dulymus Jenod McAllister, more affectionately known to the layman as Deuce, was the toast of New Orleans from 2002-2007. A time more affectionately known to most Saints fans as "The Dark Ages."
Usually surrounded by lackluster talent, McAllister still managed to thrive. He currently holds Saints records for career rushing yards and TDs, and also accumulated a team record 22 100-yard games.
Unfortunately, just as things finally started to look up for the Saints (regrettably, not the city of New Orleans itself), McAllister's career went into an injury-riddled tailspin.
He would tear both of his ACLs within a two year period from 2005-2007, and would eventually be supplanted at running back by a committee of Reggie Kardashian and Pierre Thomas.
Deuce was also the recipient of a famous Chris Berman-ism, and even though he's not breaking tackles anymore, in my heart, "the Deuce will always be loose."
Years Played: 1994 – 2001
Rushing Yards: 5,336
The originator of "The Dirty Bird," Anderson suffered a career-ending ACL tear in 2001.
He finished his eight-year career with 41 touchdowns, and his single season team record of 14 TDs was only recently broken by another built-like-a-tank Falcon running back, Michael Turner.
He was the epitome of a workhouse. The best example of this came in the 1998 season, when he carried the ball a then NFL single-season record 410 times.
Post-NFL, the charismatic Anderson has appeared as an analyst for ESPN, and will forever remain a legend for sparking such an infectious TD dance.
Years Played: 1997 – 2007
Rushing Yards: 8,172
Priest was a flat out beast. A three-time Pro-Bowler, Holmes dominated the NFL rushing landscape for an impressive chunk of time, averaging 1530 yards per season from 2001-2004.
He broke Marshall Faulk's NFL record for total TDs in a season with 27 (a record at the time), and became a virtual lock for the first overall pick in most fantasy drafts across the country because of his goal-line prowess.
But in 2005, his career hit the skids. He had been averaging 111.5 YPG thru eight games, until Shawne Merriman, in a fit of roid rage, tackled Holmes the wrong way, injuring his spinal column.
Holmes would only play sporadically from then on, attempting multiple comebacks, even after fresh blood Larry Johnson snatched up his starting role.
He finally called it quits in 2008, realizing he'd rather remember his kids' names than be a short yardage/goal-line back (probably the worst possible role for a player with spinal issues) for the rest of his career.
Years Played: 1993 – 2000
Rushing Yards: 6,818
Smith, a charter member of the Mundane Name Hall of Fame, finished his career with the Vikings as their all-time leading rusher.
Much like Sanders, he retired at the peak of his career, a year after leading the NFC with 1,521 rushing yards.
Also, also like Barry, he had the bigger picture in mind. According to Wikipedia, he left the NFL to pursue a career in medicine.
I guess it helps to not feel the lingering effects of a concussion when checking for symptoms and writing prescriptions.
An extraordinary career for a man with such an ordinary name
Years Played: 1995 - 2002
Rushing Yards: 7,607
Rushing TDs: 60
Terrell Davis, was, in a word, The Man (okay, two words). As a sixth round pick, he became the lowest draft pick in the history of the league to rush for 1,000 yards in his rookie season.
His rise to stardom was indeed story-book. Starting his career at Long Beach State (which now doesn't even have a football team), Davis was the Broncos' sixth string running back entering training camp in 1995.
He managed to win the starting job after an impressive preseason, and the rest in history (Super Bowl rings, a 2,000-yard rushing season, fantasy royalty from 1996 to 1998).
But his career would come to an abrupt halt after his record setting 2,008 yard season due to multiple knee injuries. From 1999 to 2001 he would fail to crack the 300-yard rushing plateau.
A rocky (mountain) fall from grace, indeed.