Greatest College Running Backs

The Top Ten

1 Herschel Walker Herschel Walker Herschel Walker is a former professional American football player, bobsledder, sprinter and mixed martial artist.

Just look at his aggregrate Heisman trophy votes during his entire career. He came in third his firts year, second his second year and won it his third year. Over three years I'm not sure you can say that about the other leaders. Barry Sanders had one great year and was a backup his Fresh and Soph years. Marcus DuPree had talent no doubt, but to put him over Herschel.. Come on man.. This is not a vote on potential but actual accomplishments. Bo gets compared to Hershel all the time because they both played similar, wore #34 and in the SEC. The truth is Bo may have been the overall better athlete with consideration to his baseball accomplishments.. But those shouldn't weigh in on the RB arguement. "oh you Herschel Walker! "

Herschel walker not only had the skills to run people over but he had the speed power acceleration and explosiveness and those five skill define a great running back in college football he might have not had the best stats but had the best class skills and most importantly confidence

What Herschel Walker did he did SEC defenses and the other conferences had a team maybe two with defenses to match SEC but playing continuance week end week out against SEC defenses and doing what he did...there is no question best running back in History.

Easily the best.

V 32 Comments
2 Barry Sanders Barry Sanders Barry Sanders is a former American football running back who spent his entire professional career with the Detroit Lions of the National Football League.

By far the best college back! He broke records in all categories and never complained about playing time or boast about his accomplishments. He ran better than any other back, but his composure and patience are what put him over the top!

Remember him backing up Thurman Thomas as a freshman and soph and playing Nebraska... Thurman was a spectacular back but was completely shut down against the Cornhuskers (had almost as many carries as he had amassed yards) then they would put that back-up in and he tore the huskers up. When Thomas graduated and Sanders had center stage to himself his junior year he had what has to be the best season in the history of ncaa football. He was a home run hitter extradonaire if you thot the best way of achieving a big play was throwing deep you may have a better chance flipping the ball to #21 who could take it the distance at any given time. I know there are others with better bodies of work... Walker was a phenomenal athlete with integrity and heart but besides his frosh season was never a take it the distance back even with all that speed and ability (go figure? ) and is fortunate to have a heisman on his mantel... Dickerson was arguably more impressive and would've been unlikely to beat ...more

Dude... Really, broke all those records in 88... And most of them still stand...25 years after! Most 200 yard games in a season, most 300 yard games in a season, most tds in a season, only really played one year of college... That was just a preview of the greatest running back in the nfl... That whole 88 season was nothing but a highlight reel!

Best RUNNING back ever. There may have been better backs at blocking, receiving, etc. but NO ONE was as quick, shifty, and elusive as Barry. Created the art of running from the tailback position. Look at his career #'s playing for a crap team w/a crap O line...imagine his #'s on a good team?

V 15 Comments
3 Marcus DuPree

The greatest combo of strength, size, speed, awareness ever.. He didn't play as long as these others, but what he did when he played at full health was the best ever. Bo, Barry, Ron, Herschel had better stories, careers, etc. , but this boy topped them all and doing it behind a weak offense, He is all they had that freshman year of 1982. And of course a still standing for decades fiesta bowl record for rushing. And he played in only half the game. Go see the highlights on the net. He was only at 50 percent with that hamstring problem. These other running backs below couldn't do half that with Marcus's injuries. These other RBs had good QBs and WRs. OU didn't. So boo yah to all the haters with this argument. Cased closed. Smoke em if you got em.

I saw Herschel. I saw Barry. I saw Bo. All GREAT RBs. But when I saw Marcus in 1982, I must say I never saw another like him. He had Strength and Speed that both Bo and Herschel had. The difference is he had running ability, not quite Barry's instincts and moves but this dude could cut, make you miss and frankly he was "The Total Package. " NO ONE else has ever done it as well.

even out of shape and slow he set a record at the fiesta bowl which still stands today. and in only one half playing... these others below go 20 plus pounds overweight and no good line like marcus did, they will suck... I know.. cause I've watched all your top ten backs when they played...

Man I would have loved to see him in the NFL WOW.This kid was just a beast with not much in front of him imagine him behind a a line like the cowboys have now man what fun would that be to just watch every sunday

V 15 Comments
4 Bo Jackson Bo Jackson

Bo n Mr. Dupree, man among men, neither really trained, just god given mixes of size, strength, speed and smarts... Bo ran a 4.1 40 yard dash at a NFL combine, still a record to this day. Bo's entrance into the NFL was a "hobby" to keep him from getting bored in the MLB off-season... Not enough can be said about him in his college days, his stories are bunyonesque...

Had he taken the path of pure football I think he would hold every record possible. He was as strong as Earl Campbell, faster than McFadden, and had amazing stamina. It has to be either him or Herschel for #1

Bo should be #1 and here is why: the defenses he played against were infinitely better than the ones Barry or DuPree played. and he ran a 4.12 not a 4.31 for those of you who hate Bo's swag.

I'm a big fan of super Bo so I just gotta vote for him.

V 25 Comments
5 O.J. Simpson O.J. Simpson

Yes! It is a shame that O J Simpson was allegedly accused of murder! But you can never take away something that was already accomplished! No doubt that O J was the best running back of all time! He did what he did against the best in College during his time! Period!

O.J. simpson was a great running back throughout his college and professional career, but he is an awful person. Even though he was not convicted or murder, that is still what most people attach his name to and he will never be able to shake that one off. Really a shame considering how great of a player he was

Too bad everyone gets to vote on these things. You should have to take an IQ Test or something. This is horrible. I think O.J. was the best COLLEGE back of all-time, but even if he wasn't the best, there is no way he should be this low. - ryguys9

OJ
Was ithe greatest college most exciting running back ever. He was found not guilty In a court of law, but yet you won't even mention him without the murder case. Sad!
Tony Dorsett was number two he's not even mention here.

V 10 Comments
6 Reggie Bush Reggie Bush Reginald Alfred "Reggie" Bush Jr. is an American football running back who is currently on the Buffalo Bills roster.

Every time he touched the ball he made at least one guy miss... He was never tackled by the first guy... And if he gets into the open field it's an automatic 6

Reggie bush best player in college history never seen a player more feared

Was great to see on T.V. always electrifying

Most exciting of all the top ten

V 12 Comments
7 Earl Campbell Earl Campbell Earl Christian Campbell is a former American football running back who played professionally in the National Football League for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints.

"No question one of the greatest running backs of all time... He was big and fast, WOW... That's all you can say about this guy.

Enjoyed watching this big running back - one of a kind.

Besides Bo and Herschel, Earl Campbell is the next best.

Agree. He was the beast, Very powerful and quick.

V 2 Comments
8 Archie Griffin

Dude he won the Heisman 2 times he should be #1 or 2 at least

I think he is the best player who ever played the Game.

He is the greatest football player ever.

By far the greatest running back

V 7 Comments
9 LaDanian Tomlinson

It's no dout he is the best. Reggie Bush is nothing like this guy.

He owns one of the best games in college football history. No doubt he should be on this list

TCU is awesome

Ok we are talking about College right?
This guy was electrifying in College!

10 Tony Dorsett Tony Dorsett

The most underrated GREAT running back in history. You NEVER hear his name mentioned in the discussions of the best all time runners and that is a crime. People dismiss the fact that he was the all time leading rusher when he left college and 2nd all time leading rusher when he left the NFL. They also overlook the fact that he had incredible toughness and durability for a 180 lbs running back - kickers are bigger than that these days.

Tony Dorsett held the NCAA rushing record for 20 years and he is number 14, you people got to be deranged, no way Dorsett is not number 1 or number 2

Agree with everything said about Tony "D". My favorite RB of all time by far. Watching the 1976 season was really my first infatuation with football whereas TD broke a long run every game. Sitting and waiting to see it to happen was just as much of a thrill as it was watching it happen!

Tony Dorsett is hands down the greastest college rb of all time whoever made this ranking knows nothing about football look at the stats... first player to everr be rank in the top heisman ballet every year all time rusher in college history for over 20years his list of records goes unmatched...

V 6 Comments

The Contenders

11 Emmitt Smith Emmitt Smith Emmitt James Smith III is a former college and professional American football running back who became the National Football League's all-time leading rusher during his fifteen seasons in the league during the 1990s and 2000s.

Hello has any one ever watched football

V 3 Comments
12 Jim Brown Jim Brown

Talking all his smack about Franco Harris and Franco shut him up as he beat him in the 100 yard dash an jimmy brown faked like he had a cramp... Whatever!

Best running back of all time hands down end of story

No way he would have started over Maarcus Allen on his comeback

What a joke

V 6 Comments
13 Marcus Allen

Marcus wad a definite first fun when you need it. He was so smooth. Not considered fast and strong but heard to catch. Slashing though the defense. Did I mention he could catch and throw.

Marcus was the business! 200 yard games, 300 yard games, and mostly played as a back up his first two years.

The Roger Maris of 2000 yard rushers not in top 10? Silly

A tragedy this great football athlete is underrated at the collegiate level as well as the pro level.

a graceful runner leaving you amazed. just ask the Washington Redskins!

V 2 Comments
14 Eric Dickerson Eric Dickerson Eric Demetric Dickerson is a former college and professional American football player who was a running back in the National Football League for eleven seasons during the 1980s and 1990s.

2 best backs out of Texas period at all levels high school college and the pros were Earl Campbell and Marcus Dupree

Playing half the snaps his senior over 1600 yards enough said

Craig James would have had more yards if they didn't have him sharing a little time with number 19

Eris had a hard time remembering hi plays

V 14 Comments
15 Darren McFadden

Pure power when he runs, he hits the hole as he was being timed in the 40 dash.

Power, strength, agile. The hardest hole hitter ever.

Really? Who is this guy? What did he ever do?

More big plays than ever seen

V 3 Comments
16 Ricky Williams Ricky Williams Errick Lynne "Ricky" Williams Jr. is a retired American football running back who played twelve seasons in the National Football League and one season in the Canadian Football League.

Should be top 3 at least, maybe best ever (modern era).

Goofy Good with no drive. Amazing potential never fully realized.,

Broke everyone's records above him on the list

Respect to all previously stated other than Reggie Bush. He was a track star that could catch the ball out of the backfield, not a RB. Smh at you guys that think he even deserves to be mentioned with these guys. Ricky top 3 hands down, broke all their records, they knew he was gettin it, it didn't matter

V 4 Comments
17 Red Grange Red Grange Harold Edward "Red" Grange, nicknamed "The Galloping Ghost" or "The Galloping Red Ghost", was a college and professional American football halfback for the University of Illinois, the Chicago Bears, and for the short-lived New York Yankees. V 1 Comment
18 Mike Rozier

He was the greatest running back in college history he only average two and a half quarters again for all the rest of the running backs average four quarters

He was the greatest running back in college history he only averaged two and a half quarters again we're all the rest of them play for all four quarters

One of the best running backs ever!

Just look at his stats vs playing time.

V 1 Comment
19 Marshall Faulk Marshall Faulk Marshall William Faulk is a former college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for twelve seasons.

He compiled one of the greatest freshman seasons in NCAA history, gaining 1,429 yards rushing, with 23 total touchdowns (21 rushing), and 140 points scored. In one game he rushed for 386 yards and 7 TD's

V 1 Comment
20 Adrian Peterson Adrian Peterson Adrian Lewis Peterson is an American football running back who originally played for the Minnesota Vikings and currently plays for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League.

His freshman year, 2004, was greatest any freshman has produced. His power, speed, and phenomenal vision were as good as the game's ever seen! Peterson has been great at every level since he first picked up a football.

Even though he was injured he was still undoubtedly a top ten college back of all time, go look at his highlight reel. It's better than any other player's.

Why is he so low he was great in college numbers don't lie

The boys a monster just watch this season 2016 all day td AP biggest fan butlerkelly901@gmail.com

V 1 Comment
21 Charles Woodson Charles Woodson Charles Woodson is a former American football cornerback and free safety. He played college football for Michigan, where he led the Wolverines to a national championship in 1997. Woodson, a "two-way player" who played both offense and defense, won the Heisman Trophy in the same year, becoming the second, ...read more.
22 John Cappelletti

Special back. Real tough and smart.

23 Willis McGahee

Best single season in the history of the University of Miami...1,700 yds. 28 TDs. Boo yah!!!

Held back from better stats by a conservative coach. Could have easily-easily surpassed 2,000 yards and 35 TDs with an offensive minded coach. Place Urban, or Nick, or Les on that staff and he's in the conversation for greatest of all time.

24 Ron Dayne

He's the all-time NCAA leading rusher.

He was the best badger running back of all time. and the best freshman running back of all time( other than Jonathan Taylor)

I saw the Great Dane not even play in the fourth qtr of a lot of his games,... And he still has the most yes of ALL TIME...

25 Larry Johnson Larry Johnson Larry Alphonso Johnson, Jr. is a former American football running back in the National Football League.
26 Leonard Fournette

Number one leading rusher wright now

This guy needs to be in the rop ten best college runningbacks

27 Ernie Davis

Would have been in the top 3 as a pro. Being this far down on this list only reflects the lack of recognition that has followed the man that quietly outran Jim Brown. My next door neighbor played on his high school team, and used to tell us how during practice for kick offs they would kick it to Ernie, and without any blockers he'd return it for a TD almost every time. If he had lived and continued to play with 32 at Cleveland, an argument could be made against any Packer dynasty in the 60's. View some highlights of the man who really set the mark for the perfect blend of speed and power. As football fans we were robbed of his brilliance. RIP 44.

I am from USC and have followed running backs for fifty five years. Though I never saw Ernie David run, his legend began when he was alive playing in college and was considered far greater than Jim Brown. I would like to hear Jim Browns take on this, or would I. Also Ricky Bell from USC should be here, another lost to soon in life.

Only people over 55 mostly only Syracuse or Cleveland Browns fans, a few Washington Redskins fans will have knowledge of Ernie Davis. So, let us get Jim Brown to answer and any remaining Syracuse coach that worked with both. I would accept their replies,

Ernie Davis is awesome.

V 2 Comments
28 Nick Chubb
29 Anthony Davis Anthony Davis Anthony Marshon Davis Jr. is an American professional basketball player for the New Orleans Pelicans of the National Basketball Association.
30 Desmond Howard Desmond Howard Desmond Kevin Howard is a former National Football League player. Howard was known mostly as a return specialist but also played wide receiver.
31 Glenn Davis

Averaged almost 10 yards per carry.

Highest yards per carry in college football history

32 Ki-Jana Carter

KI-Jana Carter deserve's too be on this list. Carter was as good as any RB in college. Would have easily went over 2,000 yds. In 1994, if he didn't sit out almost the whole second half like every game. He was faster and bigger then Reggie Bush. That is a proven fact. Just look at his highlights and all his long breakaway runs. Bush being from Southern Cal was highlighted like a Hollywood star. If Carter played at Southern Cal at the same time, and instead of Reggie Bush he would be very high on this list. You put Larry Johnson on this list, because he had one huge season. Carter had quite a few big seasons and was simply better, trust me I followed both of them closely. Carter averaged 8 yards a carry!

Most underrated on this list! Ki-Jana was a threat to score every play. Powered the 94 Penn State offense with over 1700 rushing yards and 26 TDs and the dude only played in the first half of all but 3 games cause PSU was usually up 45 at the half!

33 Dalvin Cook
34 Bronko Nagurski Bronko Nagurski Bronislau "Bronko" Nagurski was a Canadian-born American football player, renowned for his strength and size.
35 Lawrence Phillips

Dude was an incredible talent! Did not even play his senior year! Would of won heisman with ease if it were not for his off field trouble, which is main reason some people may not even know who he is! Just look him up, man was unreal! Too bad he self destructed his God given ability! Wasted talent!

Look at the film Lawrence was by far in the top ten. Watch when he ran against the U Miami.

Only thing that stopped LP was LP. Unfortunately.

36 Charles White

Awesome in College. Out did Billiy Sims and got the heismmman. Another player not used correctly. Wasted talent. It took 10 years of part time playing and his old college Coach believing in him and what does he do? He led the NFL in rushing however he was back in the powder and out of the league. Real sad!

37 Derrick Henry
38 Doc Blanchard

Big and strong. Could play today.

39 Donald Brown
40 Mark Ingram Mark Ingram Mark Ingram, Jr. is an American football running back for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League. V 1 Comment
41 DeAngelo Williams

Top five in all time rushing yards and all purpose yards all time

42 Melvin Gordon Melvin Gordon Melvin Gordon III is an American football running back for the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League. V 1 Comment
43 George Rogers
44 Walter Payton Walter Payton Walter Jerry Payton was an American football running back who played for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League for thirteen seasons.

I can't believe no one has mentioned Walter Payton nor Gayle Sayers, next to Barry Sanders, the best ever! Gayle Sayers total yrds in one game, one season, and the most TD's in one season (36) and the most TD's in one game (6) still stand to this day!

One of the Best

45 Gale Sayers Gale Sayers Gale Eugene Sayers, also known as "The Kansas Comet", is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for seven seasons during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Gale Sayers was best ever and not even listed! Probably because most of people reading these lists are too young to remember him.

The Kansas comet! #1 people don't even know!

V 1 Comment
46 Todd Gurley Todd Gurley Todd Gurley II is an American football running back for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League.

Straight monster. Could be one of the best ever. Speed power agility.

He's great at the university of Georgia!

V 1 Comment
47 Matt Jones Matt Jones

If he had a good line. Enough said

48 T.J Yeldon
49 Jim Thorpe Jim Thorpe

The best "all-around" athlete in the history of the planet; if he was alive today he would be a bigger celeb than Michael Jordan and LeBron James combined..

V 3 Comments
50 Johnny Rodgers

Electrifying scorer that could change the game. He should be ranked much higher. He had world class speed. He was mis used in the pros and he didn't get the Reps so his talent was a waste. He will be remembered like Lawrence Phillips, would have, could have. So sad... Only if you guys go to youtube and see the talent they had. Very Special and elite group!

He had the cuts and the speed as a WR/RB he had fingers made of maple syrup... Should I go on

PSearch List

Related Lists

Best Football Running Backs of All Time Top Ten NFL Running Backs of All Time Best NFL Running Backs Going Into the 2018 Season Top 10 NFL Running Back Busts of All Time Top 10 Running Back NFL Teams

List Stats

1,000 votes
66 listings
10 years, 315 days old

Top Remixes (8)

1. Herschel Walker
2. Emmitt Smith
3. Jim Brown
jewishprince
1. Barry Sanders
2. Bo Jackson
3. Herschel Walker
Mjknoff
1. Barry Sanders
2. Archie Griffin
3. Billy Sims
doppleganger

WRemix
View All 8

Error Reporting

See a factual error in these listings? Report it here.
P