9 Top NFL Running Backs of All Time

adrian peterson

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had reason to celebrate Sunday, because not only was it the day he joined the League’s list of greats with 10,000 rushing yards —  it was also the day he did it in the third-fastest time.

According to Bleacher Report, it was on Peterson’s home turf in Minneapolis where he became the third-fastest player to reach 10,000 career rushing years in NFL history on Sunday, and the match was played against the Chicago Bears who fell to the Vikings 23-20 in overtime. Peterson finished the game with 211 yards on 35 carries, and he now only stands behind hall of famers Jim Brown and Eric Dickerson as the running backs to register 10,000 rushing yards in the quickest time.

Bleacher Report also highlighted Sunday that Peterson is now the fifth running back to reach 10,000 rushing yards within his first seven seasons, joining the company of Dickerson, LaDainian Thompson, Emmitt Smith, and Barry Sanders. Peterson is now 28, nearing the typical break-down age for running backs, but history has still proven that he is unlike most ordinary backs and likely has more fuel in his tank — exciting onlookers for what’s to come. Still, the running back has a far way to go to catch up to the League’s top leaders on the Rushing Yards list — 10,057 yards — if we’re getting technical, but there’s no doubt he’ll try to take that record, too.

Here are the 9 top NFL running backs who currently hold the record for most career rushing yards, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dukejason/

9. Jim Brown

Coming in at No. 9 on the list is Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who managed to reel in 12,312 rushing yards in the 8 years he starred in the NFL. Now aged 77, Brown was drafted by the same team he retired from, the Cleveland Browns, in the 1957 NFL Draft, and it was for the Browns that he rushed for 106 total touchdowns. The 9-time Pro Bowler and 8-time First Team All-Pro fullback was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/canamspyder/

8. Tony Dorsett

Next up at No. 8 on the list is Tony Dorsett with 12,739 registered running yards, achieved in just over 10 years from 1977-1988. Dorsett went to the University of Pittsburgh and was then drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1st round of the 1977 NFL Draft, the team for which he rushed for 72 touchdowns. Dorsett spent his last year with the NFL playing for the Denver Broncos, and there he scored 5 touchdowns rushing. The 4-time Pro Bowler and 1-time First-Team All-Pro running back was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1994 and is the father of the Houston Oilers’s Anthony Dorsett Jr.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wischfamily/

7. Eric Dickerson

The next on the list is Eric Dickerson, one of the two running backs who achieved 10,000 rushing yards in a faster time than Peterson. Dickerson reached the milestone in only 91 games and finished his 11-year career with 13,259 yards rushing, the second of all time at the time of his retirement. After attending Southern Methodist University, Dickerson was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1983 NFL Draft, and later split his time between the Rams, the Indianapolis Colts, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Los Angeles Raiders, finishing up with 90 touchdowns rushing. Now at the age of 53, Dickerson is a 6-time Pro Bowler and 5-time First-Team All-Pro. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/

6. Jerome Bettis

Jerome Bettis comes in at No. 6, thanks to the 13,662 rushing yards he registered in his 12-year career from 1993-2005. The Bus attended Notre Dame before he, too, was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, but this time in the 1993 NFL draft, 10 years after Dickerson. Bettis played for the Rams for two years before he played for St. Louis Rams for one, and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the rest of his career. He retired a Steeler in 2005 after 78 total touchdowns rushing in Pittsburgh and 13 split between St. Louis and Los Angeles. The 6-time Pro Bowler and 2-time First-Team All-Pro running back was a Hall of Fame finalist in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathaninsandiego/

5. LaDainian Tomlinson

Coming in at No. 5 is LaDainian Tomlinson, the running back who rushed for 13,684 yards during his 10-year career. Tomlinson went to Texas Christian University before he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 2001 NFL Draft. He played for the Chargers for 9 years before finishing up with the New York Jets in 2011. Tomlinson has 145 touchdowns rushing and is a 5-time Pro Bowler and 3-time First-Team All-Pro.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pencil_transforming_schools_together/

4Curtis Martin

Hall-0f-famer Curtis Martin is fourth on the list of NFL Career Rushing Yards Leaders, and he has his 14,101 rushing yards to thank for that. Martin retired in 2005 as a New York Jet after playing in New York for eight seasons, but he was initially drafted by the New England Patriots in 1995 after attending the University of Pittsburgh. He has 90 touchdowns rushing and is a 5-time Pro Bowler and 1-time First-Team All-Pro. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, after being a finalist in 2011.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/natethompson/

3. Barry Sanders

Making the top-3 club is Barry Sanders, the Detroit Lions running back who rushed for 15,269 yards in his 10 years in Michigan, similar to Peterson in that he achieved 10,000 rushing yards in seven seasons or less. Sanders attended Oklahoma State University before getting drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1989, the same team from which he’d ultimately retire 10 seasons later. The iconic Lions running back is a 10-time Pro Bowler and 6-time First Team All-Pro. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/76277895@N05/

2. Walter Payton

The No. 2 leader is Walter Payton, the hall of famer who spent all 13 of his seasons with the Chicago Bears, the same team who drafted him in 1975. Payton takes the No. 2 distinction with 16,726 rushing yards, and he ran for 110 touchdowns with the Bears. He is a 9-time Pro Bowler and 5-time First-Team All-Pro. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/phibetasigma/

1. Emmitt Smith

Coming in at No. 1 is the famed Emmitt Smith, the running back whose running yards far eclipse any of those by the aforementioned players on the list. Smith registered an impressive 18,355 rushing yards during his 15 years as a NFL player, and he split his time between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals. Smith was drafted as a Cowboy in 1990 and spent 13 years in Dallas before joining the Cardinals for the 2003 season. He retired as a Cardinal after the 2004 season, after totaling 164 rushing touchdowns, 11 of which occurred in his last 2 years as a player. Smith, now 44, is an 8-time Pro Bowler and 4-time First-Team All-Pro. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.

Don’t Miss: Hedge Funds Love These 10 Stocks.