Table of Contents

    Introduction

    Listen, we all know the quarterback is the guy, the prima donna of the NFL world, getting the fame, the girls, and the cereal endorsements. But who’s out there grinding yard after yard, stiff-arming guys who resemble freight trains? Yes, you got it, the running back. Arguably the second most important position in the team, running backs are the heart and soul of the gridiron game, dancing through the chaos to find daylight.

    You know, it’s one thing to appreciate the astonishing feats of athleticism displayed on the field every Sunday, but it’s quite another to grasp the caliber of player needed to consistently perform at an elite level. Strap in, folks. We’re not just talking about good players; we’re diving into the crème de la crème, the greatest running backs of all time.

    What Makes These Men Stand Out from the Rest?

    Now, before we unleash this star-studded lineup, let’s talk about what makes these men extraordinary. What separates a good running back from a great one? What magical blend of attributes propels a player into the realm of the legendary?

    Speed, strength, agility, and stamina – these are the core ingredients in the recipe for an elite running back. But when we talk about the best of the best, we need to go deeper. We’re talking about vision, the uncanny ability to see and exploit gaps in the defense. We’re talking about patience, the discipline to allow blocking schemes to develop. We’re talking about versatility, the skill to be a factor in the passing game as well as the running game.

    The greatest running backs don’t just break tackles; they break records. They don’t just gain yards; they gain followers. They become the beating heart of their teams, often carrying the hopes and dreams of entire cities on their broad shoulders.

    And yet, it’s not just about raw stats. The best running backs etch themselves into our memories with moments of sheer magic. The jaw-dropping runs that leave defenders grasping at air, the game-winning touchdowns in the dying seconds, and the displays of superhuman effort when it matters most.

    We’re not just celebrating players here; we’re celebrating the legends who’ve become part of the very fabric of the game. We’re celebrating men who, through their prowess on the football field, have ascended to a kind of gridiron immortality. So, without further ado, let’s delve into the top 15 best running backs in history.

    1. Emmitt Smith – The man from Pensacola, Florida made defenses look like they were running in quicksand. Smith not only leads the NFL in career rushing yards (18,355) but also in rushing touchdowns with a jaw-dropping 164 to his name. During his 15-year career, Smith earned three Super Bowl rings and was named NFL MVP in 1993.
    2. Walter Payton – Known as “Sweetness”, Walter Payton was anything but sweet on the football field. Payton had the uncanny ability to bulldoze defenders while still delivering the finesse of a ballerina. With his hard-nosed playing style, Payton amassed 16,726 rushing yards and 110 touchdowns. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and the 1977 NFL MVP.
    3. Barry Sanders – Barry Sanders had moves that even the best dancers envied. With an uncanny ability to stop and change direction, Sanders racked up a whopping 15,269 rushing yards and 99 rushing touchdowns over a 10-year career. Sanders was named to the Pro Bowl every year of his career and won the MVP award in 1997.
    4. Jim Brown – A physical specimen before the era of weightlifting, Jim Brown was a freight train on the football field. With his combination of size, speed, and raw power, Brown averaged an astonishing 104.3 rushing yards per game over his career. In just nine seasons, he totaled 12,312 rushing yards and an impressive 106 touchdowns.
    5. LaDainian Tomlinson – In 2006, LT not only broke the record for most touchdowns scored in a single season (31), he also set the record for most points scored in a single season (186). Tomlinson, known for his signature visor and charismatic smile, retired with 13,684 rushing yards and 145 rushing touchdowns.
    6. Marshall Faulk – A dual threat on the football field, Marshall Faulk accumulated 12,279 rushing yards and 6,875 receiving yards, making him one of the most dynamic players to ever grace the NFL. Faulk was named NFL MVP in 2000 and helped the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV.
    7. Eric Dickerson – Standing tall and running with an upright posture, Dickerson was a sight to behold on the gridiron. His record-setting 2,105-yard rushing season in 1984 still stands as the benchmark. Dickerson retired with 13,259 rushing yards and 90 touchdowns.
    8. Adrian Peterson – AP made an immediate impact in the NFL, rushing for 1,341 yards in his rookie year. His remarkable recovery from a torn ACL to rush for 2,097 yards in 2012 was nothing short of heroic. All-Day finished his career with 14,918 rushing yards and 120 TDs.
    9. Gale Sayers – Sayers was a human highlight reel. Despite a career shortened by injury, Sayers made an indelible mark on the NFL. His record of six touchdowns in a single game still stands, and he retired with an impressive 4,956 rushing yards and 39 rushing touchdowns in just seven seasons.
    10. Earl Campbell – Known as the “Tyler Rose”, Campbell was an unstoppable force on the football field. He led the league in rushing for three consecutive seasons from 1978 to 1980, retiring with 9,407 rushing yards and 74 touchdowns. Campbell won the NFL MVP in 1979.
    11. O.J. Simpson – Before the controversial off-field issues, O.J. was a marvel on the football field. In 1973, Simpson became the first player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season, a feat made even more impressive considering it was a 14-game season.
    12. Marcus Allen – Allen was a versatile running back who could do it all. His 191-yard, two-touchdown performance in Super Bowl XVIII remains legendary. Allen finished his career with 12,243 rushing yards, 5,411 receiving yards, and 145 total touchdowns.
    13. Curtis Martin – The consistency of Curtis Martin was nothing short of impressive. Martin rushed for 1,000 yards in 10 of his 11 seasons and finished his career with 14,101 rushing yards and 90 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
    14. Thurman Thomas – Thomas was a central figure in the Buffalo Bills’ four consecutive Super Bowl appearances. A versatile back, he led the league in yards from scrimmage for five consecutive seasons and finished his career with 12,074 rushing yards and 88 touchdowns.
    15. Tony Dorsett – Dorsett’s speed and agility made him a nightmare for defenders. His 99-yard touchdown run in 1982 remains the longest in NFL history. Dorsett retired with 12,739 rushing yards and 77 touchdowns.

    From Emmitt Smith’s tireless durability to Barry Sanders’ electrifying runs, these 15 legends exemplify the prowess, skill, and sheer determination it takes to rise to the very top of the game. And even while we’re amazed at their individual achievements, we can’t forget that these were the guys who made Sunday football much more than a pastime; they made it a spectacle.

    NFL FAQs

    How do you play football survival pool?

    Players pick one team each week they think will win the game outright. They may only pick a team ONCE per season, meaning you can't pick the same team twice in one season. If their pick is correct, the player survives another week and continues to play. An incorrect pick eliminates the player from the contest entirely. This is sometimes called an elimination or suicide pool. The last person standing wins.

    How to make a football pool?

    A football pool generally requires the creation of a shareable spreadsheet (like Google Sheets) so that members may pick teams. Then depending on the game type, creators must use several kinds of formulas (e.g. CountIF), data validation, and conditional formatting. Or, you can just use football pool hosting service like RunYourPool where we do all the work for you!

    How to run a weekly football pool?

    In order to run a football pool, you must first crown yourself as Pool Commissioner. Begin by picking a game type like Survivor or Pick'Em. You'll want to establish rules before inviting friends, family, and colleagues to join. As commissioner, you make the rules and also need to enforce them equally and fairly.

    What is a football survivor pool?

    In a Football Survivor Pool, players choose one team weekly they think will win. Usually, a team can be picked one time per season. Picks are made "straight up," no spreads necessary. If a pick is correct, members survive another week. An incorrect pick eliminates the player, unless a mulligan is used.

    How does a football pool work?

    Football pools are games of skill played among a group of people. There are a variety of pool types to fit every players needs, from casual to competitive. Pool commissioners can set up pools manually, or use a hosting service like RunYourPool whiel still customizing your own settings. Some examples include NFL Squares, NFL Survivor, NFL Pick 'Em, and Playoff Brackets.

    What is an NFL pickem pool?

    In an NFL pick’em pool, simply pick the outcome of each NFL game throughout the season. You can pick straight up winners or losers, or pick each game against the spread.

    How to play a football pool?

    The way one plays a football pool varies on the game type. For example, in Survivor, you pick one team to win each week and can't pick that team again. Guess wrong and you lose. Another example is Pick'em Pools in which you simply pick every game each week.

    How does a fantasy football pool work?

    Fantasy football pools don’t involve a traditional fantasy football draft. You can have as many members in your pool as you’d like, meaning no more 12 or 14 team limits! You pick a new lineup of players each week, and once you use a player once, you can’t use them again for the rest of the season.

    What is a fantasy football pool?

    A fantasy football pool is similar to a traditional fantasy football league but without the draft. Pick a new lineup each week, and once you use a player, you can’t use them for the rest of the season. Your players will receive points based on their in-game stats, and the member with the most points at the end of the season is the winner.

    What is a football pool?

    "Football Pool" is a broad term for a group of people competitively guessing the outcome of one or more football games. There are many types of formats, each assigning winners differently. They can be played informally between friends or through a more formalized system. They are often considered a great alternative to fantasy football given the ease of playing, although there are fantasy football pools as well.

    How do football pool squares work?

    There are different kinds of football square pools. Most have a 10x10 grid with one team for the rows and columns. In an attempt to win, participants select a square where they believe the last digit number of each team's score will intersect at the end of each quarter, and the game's end.

    How do you play football squares pools?

    To play a football squares pool, you're going to want to pick the squares with the best odds. As winners are determined by the point totals at the end of each quarter, try to consider options where scores are most common. Some of the most popular squares include 7-3, 7-0, 7-7, and 0-0. Numbers divisible by seven are good starting points.

    How many squares in a football pool?

    In a traditional football squares pool, a grid is sectioned off into 100 squares with 10 columns and 10 rows. This accounts for a direct relationship between each possible digit from 0 to 9 on both the X and Y axis. For smaller square grids like 5x5, multiple numbers can be assigned to each column and row.

    How to play squares football pools?

    Football squares are played by creating a grid, in which Team 1 takes the column and Team 2 the rows. In some cases, participants may claim as many squares as they like. In others, commissioners limit them to one. At the quarter times and end of the game, the winner is decided at the point the scores final digit intersect.

    What is a football squares pool?

    Also called Grid, Block, or Box Pools, Football Squares Pools can be played with any single game, but are most popular during the Super Bowl. Pool members claim squares on a 25, 50, or 100-square grid by putting their information in the square. Game scores are matched to the winning square(s), usually with winners being determined every quarter.

    How to read a football pool sheet?

    In Squares formats, football pool sheets include a grid, where one team is the column and one is the row. Winners are determined at the end of each quarter when the last number in the team’s score (on each side) is matched to the numbers on the grid, and the intersecting square wins.

    How do you play football credits pool?

    In the credits format, all players start with the same number of credits. Players make picks each week by risking a certain number of credits on games, assigning more credits to the picks with a higher confidence level. Members receive double the credits risked for each win. The member with the most credits at the end of the season wins.

    What is a football credits pool?

    In Football Credits Pools, players start with the same number of credits. They then make picks each week by risking a number of credits on games, assigning more to the picks they have more confidence in getting right. Members double credits risked for each win. The member with the highest credits at the end of the season wins.

    How to run a football pool?

    How you decide to run a football pool varies greatly depending on the game type. In each case, however, you'll want to determine the rules and settings before you begin inviting members to join you. You'll want to clearly establish how score will be kept, how tiebreakers work, and how winners are decided before anything else.

    How do you play football confidence pool?

    A football confidence pool is played straight up, not with a point spread. Not only do members pick the winning teams, they must back up their picks by giving them a relative confidence ranking. Your score reflects the number of confidence points given to winning teams. So if your confidence for a team winning is '1', then you can only win one point at most. If your confidence for a team winning is '5', then you can win five points for a win. The member with the most credits at the end wins.

    What is a football confidence pool?

    "Football Confidence Pool" refers to how you rank the teams that you think will win each week. For example, in the NFL, there are often 16 games weekly. In this scenario, you would rank each game from 16 to 1, based on the your confidence in that team winning.

    How do you play football margin pool?

    Margin pools are an NFL pool format that rewards members for picking a winning team each week. Pool commissioners can decide whether they award points equal to a winning teams margin of victory or the point spread for that game. When a commissioner chooses the point spread option, this format is often referred to as an NFL Underdog Pool.

    What is a football margin pool?

    In a Football Margin Pool, you are awarded points for picking a winning team. Pool commissioners get to decide whether they award points equal to a winning teams margin of victory or the point spread for that game. The player with the most points at the end of the season wins.

    How do you play football 33 point pool?

    The football 33 pool format is a casual pool where members are each assigned an NFL team (these pools are 32 members max, as there are 32 NFL teams). Members win when their team scores 33 points. Options for changing the target score, or having the closest to the target win each week is also available.

    What is a football 33 point pool?

    In the football 33 pool format, each member is assigned a unique NFL team (32 members max). A member will win when their team scores 33 points. This is a casual pool where you can change the target score or the option to have the closest to the target that week win.

    How to run a weekly football pool?

    In order to run a football pool, you must first crown yourself as Pool Commissioner. Begin by picking a game type like Survivor or Pick'Em. You'll want to establish rules before inviting friends, family, and colleagues to join. As commissioner, you make the rules and also need to enforce them equally and fairly.

    What is an NFL Playoff bracket pool?

    NFL Playoff Bracket pools are simple NFL pool formats where members pick every round of the playoffs before they start in an attempt to predict every match up correctly. It's optional to configure a multiplier for each round, or add a tiebreaker option of total points in the Super Bowl.

    How to make a football pool?

    A football pool generally requires the creation of a shareable spreadsheet (like Google Sheets) so that members may pick teams. Then depending on the game type, creators must use several kinds of formulas (e.g. CountIF), data validation, and conditional formatting. Or, you can just use football pool hosting service like RunYourPool where we do all the work for you!

    How to set up a football pool?

    To set up a football pool, you'll need to first choose a pool type like Survivor or Pick'em. Then, you'll need to set the ground rules. As pool commissioner, you'll enforce these rules and make sure the game runs smoothly throughout the season. Many commissioners use pool hosting sites like RunYourPool to make it easier and more engaging.

    What is a football power ranking playoff pool?

    In a power ranking playoff pool, members rank all 12 NFL teams competing in the playoffs from strongest (12 points) to weakest (1 point). Picks are made only ONCE before any games begin. Members are awarded the number of points assigned to a team when they win. Commissioners can optionally set up a point multiplier for each playoff round.

    What is a football confidence pool?

    "Football Confidence Pool" refers to how you rank the teams that you think will win each week. For example, in the NFL, there are often 16 games weekly. In this scenario, you would rank each game from 16 to 1, based on the your confidence in that team winning. This is similar to the Playoff Pool Power Ranking, just less teams.

    How to run a football pool?

    How you decide to run a football pool varies greatly depending on the game type. In each case, however, you'll want to determine the rules and settings before you begin inviting members to join you. You'll want to clearly establish how score will be kept, how tiebreakers work, and how winners are decided before anything else.

    What is a football playoff precision pool?

    In a playoff precision pool, members attempt to pick the winner of every playoff game each week. You can decide if it’s straight up or on a point spread picks, but point totals are also added. Points are awarded for correct picks AND for how close to the correct combined point total they were.

    How to read a football pool sheet?

    In Squares formats, football pool sheets include a grid, where one team is the column and one is the row. Winners are determined at the end of each quarter when the last number in the team’s score (on each side) is matched to the numbers on the grid, and the intersecting square wins.

    What is a Super Bowl Prop Bets Pool?

    A Super Bowl Prop Bet Pool is a fun and thrilling way to compete against friends and family during the big game! It's a simple questionaire of prop betting questions revolving around the Super Bowl, and whoever earns the most points based off correct answers wins!

    How does a Super Bowl Prop Bets Pool work?

    Pool members simply fill out a wide range of prop questions, each question worth a different value. Commissioners decide on the point value for each question, along with the amount of questions. Whichever member earns the most points based on corret answers wins the pool.

    What is a football Super Bowl Squares pool?

    Also called Grid, Block, or Box Pools, Football Squares Pools can be played with any single game, but are most popular during the Super Bowl. Pool members claim squares on a 25, 50, or 100-square grid by putting their information in the square. Game scores are matched to the winning square(s), usually with winners being determined every quarter.

    What is a prop bet?

    Prop bets are any sort of pick or wager on a game that has nothing to do with the score or the final score outcome. Props can range from game types, to team types and even player types - such as who will score the game's first and last touchdowns? Other props, such as novelty or exotic, feature bets on things such as the coin flip or the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

    How to read a football pool sheet?

    In Squares formats, football pool sheets include a grid, where one team is the column and one is the row. Winners are determined at the end of each quarter when the last number in the team’s score (on each side) is matched to the numbers on the grid, and the intersecting square wins.

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    About Author

    Matt K

    Matt is the Social Media Manager at RYP and currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has experience managing social media accounts with agencies, small brands, and large companies. He’s a diehard New England sports fanatic, and if he’s not watching the Celtics, he can be found roaming around Boston discovering all that the city has to offer.

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