List of National Football League rushing champions

In American football, running (also referred to as rushing) is, along with passing, one of the two main methods of advancing the ball down the field.[1] A running play generally occurs when the quarterback hands or tosses the ball backwards to the running back,[2] but other players, such as the quarterback, can run with the ball.[1] In the National Football League (NFL), the player who has recorded the most rushing yards for a season is considered the winner of the rushing title for that season.[3] In addition to the NFL rushing champion, league record books recognize the rushing champions of the American Football League (AFL), which operated from 1960 to 1969 before being absorbed into the National Football League in 1970.[4]

The NFL did not begin keeping official records until the 1932 season.[5] The average amount of yardage the rushing champion has gained has increased over time—since the adoption of the 14-game season in 1961, all but two rushing champions have recorded over 1,000 yards rushing, and the adoption of the 16-game season in 1978 has resulted in many rushing champions recording over 1,500 rushing yards. Seven rushing champions have recorded over 2,000 rushing yards, a feat first accomplished by O. J. Simpson in 1973 and most recently accomplished by Adrian Peterson in 2012.

The player with the most rushing titles is Jim Brown, who was the rushing champion eight times over his career. Eric Dickerson, Emmitt Smith, O. J. Simpson, Steve Van Buren, and Barry Sanders are tied for the second-most rushing titles, each having won four times. Jim Brown also holds the record for the most consecutive rushing titles with five, having led the league in rushing each year from 1957 to 1961. Steve Van Buren, Emmitt Smith, and Earl Campbell each recorded three consecutive rushing titles. The Cleveland Browns have recorded the most rushing titles with eleven; the Dallas Cowboys rank second, with seven rushing titles. The most recent rushing champion is Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, who led the league with 1,434 yards rushing over the 2018 season.

1986 Jeno's Pizza - 29 - O.J. Simpson
Buffalo Bills' O. J. Simpson pictured in the game where he became the first running back to gain over 2,000 yards in a season on Dec. 16, 1973. Simpson led the NFL in rushing in 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1976.
Jim Brown led the league in rushing for eight seasons, including five consecutive seasons from 1957 to 1961 and three consecutive seasons from 1963 to 1965.

List of NFL rushing title winners

Justice White Official
Byron "Whizzer" White, a future associate justice of the US Supreme Court, won the league rushing title in 1938 and 1940.
Gale Sayers led the NFL in rushing in 1966 and 1969.
1985 Police Raiders-Rams - 20 Eric Dickerson (crop)
Eric Dickerson led the league in rushing in 1983 and 1984, his first two seasons in the league, and won two more titles in 1986 and 1988.
EmmittSmith2007 (crop)
Emmitt Smith was the league's rushing champion four times, including three consecutive years from 1991 to 1993.
Tomlinson warming up
LaDainian Tomlinson won back-to-back rushing titles in 2006 and 2007, and is the most recent player to do so.
Adrian Peterson (cropped)
Adrian Peterson led the league in rushing in the 2008, 2012, and 2015 seasons.
Symbol Meaning
Season The season in which the rushing title was won
Winner The player who won the rushing title
Games The number of games played in that season[A]
Yds. Rushing yards
^ Pro Football Hall of Fame member
* Player is active
dagger Player won the AP Most Valuable Player award in the same year
double-dagger Player won the AP Offensive Player of the Year award in the same year
± Player won the title in his first season of professional football
National Football League (NFL) rushing title winners by season
Season Winner Team Yds. Games
1932 Cliff Battles Boston Braves 576 10[6]
1933 Jim Musick Boston Redskins 809 12[7]
1934 Beattie Feathers± Chicago Bears 1,004 13[8]
1935 Doug Russell Chicago Cardinals 499 12
1936 Tuffy Leemans New York Giants 830 12
1937 Cliff Battles^ Washington Redskins 874 11
1938 Byron "Whizzer" White± Pittsburgh Pirates 567 11
1939 Bill Osmanski± Chicago Bears 699 11
1940 Byron "Whizzer" White Detroit Lions 514 11
1941 Pug Manders Brooklyn Dodgers 486 11
1942 Bill Dudley Pittsburgh Steelers 696 11
1943 Bill Paschal± New York Giants 572 10
1944 Bill Paschal New York Giants 737 10
1945 Steve Van Buren^ Philadelphia Eagles 832 10
1946 Bill Dudley^ Pittsburgh Steelers 604 11
1947 Steve Van Buren^ Philadelphia Eagles 1,008 12
1948 Steve Van Buren^ Philadelphia Eagles 945 12
1949 Steve Van Buren^ Philadelphia Eagles 1,146 12
1950 Marion Motley^ Cleveland Browns 810 12
1951 Eddie Price New York Giants 971 12
1952 Dan Towler Los Angeles Rams 894 12
1953 Joe Perry^ San Francisco 49ers 1,018 12
1954 Joe Perry^ San Francisco 49ers 1,049 12
1955 Alan Ameche± Baltimore Colts 961 12
1956 Rick Casares Chicago Bears 1,126 12
1957 Jim Brown^dagger± Cleveland Browns 942 12
1958 Jim Brown^dagger Cleveland Browns 1,527 12
1959 Jim Brown^ Cleveland Browns 1,329 12
1960 Jim Brown^ Cleveland Browns 1,257 12
1961 Jim Brown^ Cleveland Browns 1,408 14
1962 Jim Taylor^ Green Bay Packers 1,474 14
1963 Jim Brown^ Cleveland Browns 1,863 14
1964 Jim Brown^ Cleveland Browns 1,446 14
1965 Jim Brown^dagger Cleveland Browns 1,544 14
1966 Gale Sayers^ Chicago Bears 1,231 14
1967 Leroy Kelly^ Cleveland Browns 1,205 14
1968 Leroy Kelly^ Cleveland Browns 1,239 14
1969 Gale Sayers^ Chicago Bears 1,032 14
1970 Larry Brown Washington Redskins 1,125 14
1971 Floyd Little^ Denver Broncos 1,133 14
1972 O. J. Simpson^ Buffalo Bills 1,251 14
1973 O. J. Simpson^daggerdouble-dagger Buffalo Bills 2,003 14
1974 Otis Armstrong Denver Broncos 1,407 14
1975 O. J. Simpson^ Buffalo Bills 1,817 14
1976 O. J. Simpson^ Buffalo Bills 1,503 14
1977 Walter Payton^daggerdouble-dagger Chicago Bears 1,852 14
1978 Earl Campbell^double-dagger± Houston Oilers 1,450 16
1979 Earl Campbell^daggerdouble-dagger Houston Oilers 1,697 16
1980 Earl Campbell^double-dagger Houston Oilers 1,934 16
1981 George Rogers± New Orleans Saints 1,674 16
1982 Freeman McNeil New York Jets 786 9[B]
1983 Eric Dickerson Los Angeles Rams 1,808 16
1984 Eric Dickerson^ Los Angeles Rams 2,105 16
1985 Marcus Allen^daggerdouble-dagger Los Angeles Raiders 1,759 16
1986 Eric Dickerson^ Los Angeles Rams 1,821 16
1987 Charles White Los Angeles Rams 1,374 15[C]
1988 Eric Dickerson^ Indianapolis Colts 1,659 16
1989 Christian Okoye Kansas City Chiefs 1,480 16
1990 Barry Sanders^ Detroit Lions 1,304 16
1991 Emmitt Smith^ Dallas Cowboys 1,563 16
1992 Emmitt Smith^ Dallas Cowboys 1,713 16
1993 Emmitt Smith^dagger Dallas Cowboys 1,486 14
1994 Barry Sanders^double-dagger Detroit Lions 1,883 16
1995 Emmitt Smith^ Dallas Cowboys 1,773 16
1996 Barry Sanders^ Detroit Lions 1,553 16
1997 Barry Sanders^daggerdouble-dagger Detroit Lions 2,053 16
1998 Terrell Davis^daggerdouble-dagger Denver Broncos 2,008 16
1999 Edgerrin James± Indianapolis Colts 1,553 16
2000 Edgerrin James Indianapolis Colts 1,709 16
2001 Priest Holmes Kansas City Chiefs 1,555 16
2002 Ricky Williams Miami Dolphins 1,853 16
2003 Jamal Lewisdouble-dagger Baltimore Ravens 2,066 16
2004 Curtis Martin^ New York Jets 1,697 16
2005 Shaun Alexanderdaggerdouble-dagger Seattle Seahawks 1,880 16
2006 LaDainian Tomlinson^daggerdouble-dagger San Diego Chargers 1,815 16
2007 LaDainian Tomlinson^ San Diego Chargers 1,474 16
2008 Adrian Peterson* Minnesota Vikings 1,760 16
2009 Chris Johnsondouble-dagger Tennessee Titans 2,006 16
2010 Arian Foster Houston Texans 1,616 16
2011 Maurice Jones-Drew Jacksonville Jaguars 1,606 16
2012 Adrian Peterson*daggerdouble-dagger Minnesota Vikings 2,097 16
2013 LeSean McCoy* Philadelphia Eagles 1,607 16
2014 DeMarco Murraydouble-dagger Dallas Cowboys 1,845 16
2015 Adrian Peterson* Minnesota Vikings 1,485 16
2016 Ezekiel Elliott Dallas Cowboys 1,631 15
2017 Kareem Hunt Kansas City Chiefs 1,327 16
2018 Ezekiel Elliott Dallas Cowboys 1,434 15

List of AFL rushing title winners

American Football League (AFL) rushing title winners by season
Season Winner Team Yds. Games
1960 Abner Haynes± Dallas Texans 875 14
1961 Billy Cannon Houston Oilers 948 14
1962 Cookie Gilchrist Buffalo Bills 1,096 14
1963 Clem Daniels Oakland Raiders 1,099 14
1964 Cookie Gilchrist Buffalo Bills 981 14
1965 Paul Lowe San Diego Chargers 1,121 14
1966 Jim Nance Boston Patriots 1,458 14
1967 Jim Nance Boston Patriots 1,216 14
1968 Paul Robinson± Cincinnati Bengals 1,023 14
1969 Dickie Post San Diego Chargers 873 14

See also


  1. ^ The NFL did not have a set number of games for teams to play until the 1935 season, instead setting a minimum.
  2. ^ The 1982 season was reduced from 16 to 9 games due to a 57-day players' strike.[9]
  3. ^ The 1987 season was reduced from 16 to 15 games due to a 24-day players' strike.[9]


  • "AP MVP winners". Archived from the original on March 5, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  • "AP Offensive Player of the Year winners". Archived from the original on March 5, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  • "Hall of Famers - Alphabetically". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  • "NFL Players". Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  • "NFL Regular Season Games Played per Season". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  • "NFL Year-by-Year Rushing Yards Leaders". Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  1. ^ a b "Beginner's Guide to Football". National Football League. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  2. ^ "The Run". Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  3. ^ "Miami's Bush eyeing NFL rushing title". August 16, 2012. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  4. ^ "2012 NFL Record and Fact Book" (PDF). pp. 625–626. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  5. ^ "NFL's Passer Rating". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  6. ^ "1932 Boston Braves". Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  7. ^ "1933 Boston Redskins". Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  8. ^ "1934 Chicago Bears". Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  9. ^ a b "NFL History by Decade: 1981-1990". Retrieved February 27, 2013.

External links

Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders (born July 16, 1968) is a former American football running back. He played professionally for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL). A Pro Bowl invitee in each of his ten NFL seasons and two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Sanders led the league in rushing yards four times and established himself as one of the most elusive runners in pro football with his quickness and agility. In 2007, he was ranked by NFL Network's NFL Top 10 series as the most elusive runner in NFL history, and also topped its list of greatest players never to play in a Super Bowl. He is often regarded as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.

Sanders played college football for the Oklahoma State Cowboys football team, where, as a junior in 1988 he compiled what is considered one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history, rushing for 2,850 yards and 42 touchdowns in 12 games. He was awarded the Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding college player in the nation and was unanimously recognized as an All-American. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

Sanders joined the Lions in 1989 and had an immediate impact, winning the NFL's Rookie of the Year award. Through ten seasons in Detroit, he averaged over 1,500 rushing yards per season and just under 100 rushing yards per game. In 1997, he became the third player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season and was named the NFL Most Valuable Player. Still seemingly in his prime, Sanders unexpectedly retired from football after the 1998 season, 1,457 yards short of breaking the NFL's all-time rushing record. His number 20 jersey was retired by the Lions, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Carry (gridiron football)

In American football and Canadian football, a carry or rushing attempt is a statistical term equivalent to a single rushing play. The term is typically used in reference to "yards per carry", meaning yards per attempt rushing the ball. Although running backs are typically tasked with carrying the ball, any offensive player who performs a carry is known as a ball-carrier for that play, regardless of position. The yards gained on a carry are referred to as rushing yards. In the National Football League (NFL), Emmitt Smith holds the record for the most career carries, with 4,409. The current leader in yards-per-carry in NFL history with at least 750 carries is quarterback Michael Vick.The statistical treatment of yardage lost on sacks differs between the NCAA and NFL. Under NCAA rules, sacks count as rushing yards for both the player and his team. In the NFL, sacks are not counted in the quarterback's passing or rushing yardage, but are counted as part of the team's passing yardage.

Emmitt Smith

Emmitt James Smith III (born May 15, 1969) is a former college and professional American football running back who became the National Football League's (NFL) all-time leading rusher during his fifteen seasons in the league during the 1990s and 2000s.

Smith grew up in Pensacola, Florida and became the second-leading rusher in American high school football history while playing for Escambia High School. Smith then attended the University of Florida, where he set numerous school rushing records over a three-year college career with the Florida Gators. After being named a unanimous All-American in 1989, Smith chose to forgo his senior year of eligibility and play professionally. He came back and completed his college coursework, graduating from the University of Florida in 1996.

The Dallas Cowboys selected Smith in the first round of the 1990 NFL draft. During his long professional career, he became the NFL's all-time rushing leader with 18,355 yards, breaking the record formerly held by Walter Payton, and played for three Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys teams. He also holds the record for career rushing touchdowns with 164. Smith is the only running back to ever win a Super Bowl championship, the NFL Most Valuable Player award, the NFL rushing crown, and the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award all in the same season (1993). He is also one of four running backs to lead the NFL in rushing three or more consecutive seasons, joining Steve Van Buren, Jim Brown and Earl Campbell. Smith led the league in rushing and won the Super Bowl in the same year three times (1992, 1993, and 1995) when to that point it had never been done. Smith is also one of only two non-kickers in NFL history to score more than 1,000 career points (the other being Jerry Rice). Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Smith played thirteen seasons with the Cowboys and two with the Arizona Cardinals. While playing for Dallas, Smith plus quarterback Troy Aikman and wide receiver Michael Irvin were known as "The Triplets," and they led their team to three Super Bowl championships during the 1990s.

Eric Dickerson

Eric Demetri Dickerson (born September 2, 1960) is a former American football running back who played in the National Football League (NFL) for eleven seasons. Dickerson played college football for the SMU Mustangs of Southern Methodist University and was recognized as an All-American. He was selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft and played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders, and Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. During his NFL career, he rushed for over 13,000 yards. He holds the NFL's single-season rushing record with 2,105 yards, set in 1984. Dickerson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He wore prescription goggles throughout his career due to myopia.

Jim Brown

James Nathaniel Brown (born February 17, 1936) is a former professional American football player and actor. He was a running back for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL) from 1957 through 1965. Considered to be one of the greatest football players of all time, Brown was a Pro Bowl invitee every season he was in the league, was recognized as the AP NFL Most Valuable Player three times, and won an NFL championship with the Browns in 1964. He led the league in rushing yards in eight out of his nine seasons, and by the time he retired, he had shattered most major rushing records. In 2002, he was named by The Sporting News as the greatest professional football player ever.Brown earned unanimous All-America honors playing college football at Syracuse University in New York, where he was an all-around player for the Syracuse Orangemen football team. He also excelled in basketball, track and field, and lacrosse. The football team later retired his number 44 jersey. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

In his professional career, Brown carried the ball 2,359 times for 12,312 rushing yards and 106 touchdowns, which were all records when he retired. He averaged 104.1 rushing yards per game, and is the only player in NFL history to average over 100 rushing yards per game for his career. His 5.2 yards per rush is second-best among running backs. Brown was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, comprising the best players in NFL history. His number 32 jersey is retired by the Browns. Shortly after his football career, Brown became an actor, and had several leading roles throughout the 1970s.

List of American Football League rushing champions

In its ten years of existence, two American Football League (AFL) rushing yards leaders were also AFL Rookies of the Year: The Dallas Texans' Abner Haynes in 1960, and the San Diego Chargers' Dickie Post in 1969. Only two men won the rushing crown twice: the Buffalo Bills' Cookie Gilchrist in 1962 and 1964, and the Boston Patriots' Jim Nance, in 1966 and 1967. All years had fourteen regular-season games.

List of NCAA major college football yearly rushing leaders

The list of college football yearly rushing leaders identifies the major college rushing leaders for each season from 1937 to the present. It includes yearly leaders in three statistical categories: (1) rushing yardage; (2) yards per carry; and (3) rushing touchdowns.

List of National Football League career rushing yards leaders

This is a list of National Football League running backs by total career rushing yards. This list includes all running backs who have rushed for at least 10,000 yards. Emmitt Smith has held the all-time rushing yards record since 2002.

Marcus Allen

Marcus LeMarr Allen (born March 26, 1960) is a former American football running back and football analyst for CBS. As a professional, Allen ran for 12,243 yards and caught 587 passes for 5,412 yards during his career for both the Los Angeles Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs from 1982 to 1997. He scored 145 touchdowns, including a then-league-record 123 rushing touchdowns, and was elected to six Pro Bowls over the course of his career. Allen was the first NFL player to gain more than 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards during his career.

Allen is considered one of the greatest goal line and short-yard runners in National Football League (NFL) history.His younger brother, Damon Allen, played quarterback for 23 seasons in the Canadian Football League, was named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and was professional football's all-time leader in passing yards.

Allen has the distinction of being the only player to have won the Heisman Trophy, an NCAA national championship, the Super Bowl, and be named NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP. He has been inducted into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

NFL annual rushing yards leaders
National Football League records and leaders
Special teams

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