1. Barry Sanders 2,628 yards 1988 Oklahoma State: One of the game’s all time greats, Sanders only started one season for the Cowboys after backing up Thurman Thomas for a couple of years. In the NFL, he retired at the top of his game. His 1988 season was one of the all time amazing feats in college football history and earned Sanders the Heisman Trophy.
2. Melvin Gordon 2,587 yards 2014 Wisconsin: Gordon was one in a long line of great Wisconsin Badger running backs. A solid case could have been made for the Heisman Trophy, but it was given to Oregon Duck quarterback Marcus Mariota instead who was also deserving. Gordon ran for just under 5,000 yards in 3 seasons. He was a 1st round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers in the 2015 draft.
3. Kevin Smith 2,567 yards 2007 UCF: Smith had 2 good seasons and then exploded in 2007 to rush for an amazing 2,500 yards plus. He was a consensus All American in 2007 and then the 3rd round draft pick of the Detroit Lions. Smith played 5 seasons in the NFL and another year in the Canadian Football League.
4. Marcus Allen 2,427 yards 1981 USC: Playing fullback in the USC I-formation and blocked for
Charles White for 2 seasons. After White was gone, Allen moved to tailback and had a couple of monster seasons. He ran for over 1,500 yards as a junior and then ran for nearly 2,500 the next year. Allen is a living legend having made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Hall of Fame. He ran for over 12,000 career yards in the NFL.
5. Rashaad Penny 2,248 yards 2017 San Diego State: One of our most recent additions to the 2,000 yard club. The San Diego State Aztecs offense has been potent the past couple of seasons with Penny and Donnel Pumphrey. Penny is a big running back at 5-11, 220 and he might have a future in the NFL.
6. Derrick Henry 2,219 yards 2015 Alabama: The Heisman winner in 2015 when he helped led the Alabama Crimson Tide to the national championship. Not only did Henry win college football’s most coveted award, he also broke the 60 year record of Kenneth Hall for most career yards rushing in high school football. Henry is huge at about 6-4, 240 and could play tight end if necessary.
7. Troy Davis 2,185 yards 1996 Iowa State: Davis finished second in the Heisman race in 1996 to Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel and probably should have won it. Like so many great football players, Davis hails from Miami, Florida and he was actually the first high school player from Miami to top 2,000 yards rushing in high school. Davis played 3 seasons for the New Orleans Saints and 7 more in the CFL.
8. Andre Williams 2,177 yards 2013 Boston College: A powerfully built running back at 5-11, 225. Williams’ parents came from Jamaica and he played his high school football at Allentown, Pennsylvania. During his first 3 seasons at Boston College, Williams ran for a total of about 1,500 yards before coaching changes in 2013 helped him explode for well over 2,000 yards. Williams was a 4th round draft pick by the New York Giants, but plays for San Diego presently.
9. LaDanian Tomlinson 2,158 2000 TCU: For a few years, Tomlinson was in a class of his own. As a senior in high school in Waco, Texas Tomlinson ran for over 2,500 yards. He signed with TCU in 1997 and then he ran for over 1,200 during his first two seasons before really breaking out during his junior year in 1999. He ran for over 1,900 yards as a junior and then for over 2,000 as a senior. He ran for 5,387 yards as a Horny Toad. The San Diego Chargers picked him with their top pick in the 2001 draft and he played 11 seasons in the NFL running for well over 13,000 yards as a pro.
10. Tony Dorsett 2,150 1976 Pittsburgh: Fast, fluid, smooth and any other adjective like those work
well for Tony Dorsett the 1976 Heisman winner. The 1976 Pitt Panthers won the national championship and then he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and they won the Super Bowl during his rookie season. Hall of Fame member.donn
11. Mike Rozier 2,148 1983 Nebraska: Another in a list of Heisman winners. The Cornhuskers were close to winning the national title during this season, but they were upset by the Miami Hurricanes. Rozier came to Nebraska from Camden, New Jersey and had to spend a season at a JC. In 1981, He ran for just under 1,000 yards. He was an All American in 1982 after running for just under 1,700 yards. He finished his career with the Heisman and just short of a national title. The 2nd player chosen in the 1984 NFL draft, he had a modest career in the NFL while splitting early time with the USFL teams.
12. Donnel Pumphrey 2,133 2016 San Diego State: Another very good Aztec running back, Pumphrey had an amazing college career. During his freshman season, he ran for 752 yards, but he cranked it up as a sophomore and ran for nearly 1,900. His numbers dropped a little as a junior when he ran for 1,653 yards. As a senior, he ran for his 2,133 yards. As a rookie, he played for Super Bowl champions Philadelphia.
13. Matt Forte 2,127 2007 Tulane: A big season out of Forte earned him a big contract with the Chicago Bears. Forte signed with Tulane out of Slidell, Louisiana where he was a football and track star. Forte was a big and fast back at about 6-2, 220. Forte had 2 good early seasons and then was injured during part of his junior year. As a senior, he crushed 2,000 yards and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 2nd round. He is still active with the New York Jets and has almost 10,000 career rushing yards.
14. Ricky Williams 2,124 1998 Texas: The big, fast Ricky Williams ran over and through opponents for over 2,000 yards and a Heisman win. Ricky broke Tony Dorsett’s 22 year old career rushing record which lasted all of one season before Ron Dayne broke it. Williams was a 1st round draft pick and had his issues in the NFL, but he still ran for 10,000 career rushing yards and led the league in rushing a time or two.
15. Bryce Love 2,118 2017 Stanford: Another newcomer to the list, Love took over for Christian
McCaffrey and promptly broke Christian McCaffrey’s 2 year old Stanford rushing record. Love decided to come back for his senior season in 2018. Love has outstanding speed and moves and could be a leading Heisman candidate for the 2018 season.
16. Ron Dayne 2,109 1996 Wisconsin; True freshman Dayne didn’t take long in the Wisconsin system to top the 2,000 yard barrier. The Pine Hill, New Jersey native was huge at about 5-10, 250 and most colleges wanted him as a fullback. Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez wanted him as a tailback, so he went with the Badgers. He had a great college career, but his best year was his freshman season.
17. Larry Johnson 2,087 2002 Penn State: The Nittany Lions may be Linebacker U, but they’ve also had some really good running backs such as 2,000 yard club member Larry Johnson. Like several others on this list, Johnson had several mediocre seasons before breaking out as a senior. Johnson had 866 yards rushing coming into the 2,087 yards. At 6-1, 235, Johnson was big and powerful, but he also had good speed. He was a 1st round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs where he had a good career.
18. Donald Brown 2,083 2008 Connecticut: Recruiting doesn’t always matter. The former 3 star recruit from New Jersey, went on to break 2,000 yards rushing in a single season and was a 1st round draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts. Brown played 5 seasons for the Colts and another couple of years and had modest success.
19. Lorenzo White 2,066 1985 Michigan State: Big, physical running back playing at about 5-11, 225. The Ft Lauderdale Dillard product came north and had tremendous success for the Spartans. He was a sophomore in 1985 when he broke 2,000 yards. During his 4 year college career, he ran for almost 5,000 yards. White was a first round draft pick by the Houston Oilers in the 1988 draft and played for 8 years in the NFL mostly with the Oilers.
20. Damien Anderson 2,063 2000 Northwestern: Anderson went over 1,000 yards as a sophomore in 1999 and then broke 2,000 as a junior. He scored 23 touchdowns as a junior. His totals dropped off as a senior in 2001 and then he went undrafted in the 2002 NFL draft. Anderson signed as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals and played there 4 seasons before being cut. Then, he played a couple of seasons in Canada.
21. Rashaan Salaam 2,055 1994 Colorado: The 1994 Heisman winner, Salaam played 8 man football in high school in California. As a freshman and sophomore, Salaam had very modest rushing yards until he had a breakout year in 1994 and won the Heisman. Leaving early for the NFL, Salaam was a first round pick by the Chicago Bears. In the NFL, Salaam was mostly a bust. He had one good season and then dropped out of sight. He was found dead in a park in 2016 at the age of 42.
22. Charles White 2,050 1979 USC: White was a super star for the Trojans in the late 1970s. As a
freshman in 1976, White ran for 858 yards. White really took off from there with almost 1,500 yards as a sophomore. During his junior season, White ran for 1,859 yards and set himself up as a top Heisman contender for 1979. That’s when White had an amazing senior season leading to an 11-0-1 record.
23. Tevin Coleman 2,036 2014 Indiana: The same season that Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon was running for the second best single season total of all time, Coleman was having an outstanding season down in Indiana. The Hoosiers combined a very good offensive line with the speedy Coleman to form an outstanding offense. Coleman currently plays for the Atlanta Falcons.
24. Ron Dayne 2,034 1999 Wisconsin: Ricky Williams broke the long standing career rushing record of Tony Dorsett in 1998. That record had survived for over 20 years, but Williams’ record only lasted a single season before Dayne of Wisconsin broke it. Dayne’s freshman year had been his best, yardage wise, but 1999’s total of 2,034 yards was enough to win the Heisman Trophy. Dayne was a 1st round pick by the New York Giants but really didn’t have an outstanding NFL career.
25. D’Onta Foreman 2,028 2016 Texas: The Longhorns finished 5-7 and head coach Charlie Strong was sent packing, but Foreman was a bright spot. With a better team, Foreman would have been a Heisman contender. Foreman was picked by the Houston Texans in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL draft and plays for the Texans now.
26. Christian McCaffrey 2,019 2015 Stanford: The second McCaffrey son came out of nowhere to break the nearly 30 year old all purpose yardage record of the great Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State set in 1988. While McCaffrey ran for over 2,000 yards, he also returned punts and kicks and was a threat in the passing game as well. McCaffrey Family
27. J.J. Arrington 2.018 2004 California: Arrington combined with quarterback Aaron Rodgers to
create an outstanding offense. Still, with the potent Trojans of the era, it was not good enough to win the Pac 12 conference. Arrington signed with East Carolina originally, but he did not qualify academically. The Pirates sent him to a JC before he was stolen by the Cal Golden Bears. After Cal, he was drafted in the 2nd round by the Arizona Cardinals where he had modest success.
28. Ray Rice 2,012 2007 Rutgers: Before beating up women, Rice was a great football player. As a 3 year starter Rice ran for over 1,000 yards as a freshman and then for over 1,700 as a sophomore. During his junior season, Rice crushed it running for over 2,000 yards. He finished 6th in the Heisman voting and then declared for the NFL.
29. Troy Davis 2,010 1995 Iowa State: Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne and Iowa State’s Troy Davis are the only ones to rush for over 2,000 yards twice. Davis was a two time consensus All American and he declared for the NFL draft after his junior season. He was drafted in the 3rd round by the New Orleans Saints and played a few years in the NFL before moving to the CFL where he played 7 more seasons.
30. Byron Hanspard 2,000 1996 Texas Tech: Before Texas Tech was known for it’s passing offenses, there was Spike Dykes. Hanspard was a speedster from DeSoto, Texas who had an amazing season in 1996 while leading the Red Raiders to one of their best seasons ever. His son is a cornerback that just signed with Baylor in it’s last class.