October 2005

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Top 10 All-Time Running Backs and Drills to Help You Become One


I love watching the show “Sports Century” on ESPN Classic with the kids. It’s a great way to teach them about the history of the games they love to play and the individuals, good and bad, that have been so special to all of us. One question they always ask as we watch is: “Is So and So the greatest of all time?” That’s always tough to answer, but since it is football season, this seems like a nice chance for my list of the all-time greatest running backs. I’ll also give you some of my favorite running back drills so that your kids can make this list one day. So, with respect to oldies Red Grange, Jim Thorpe and Bronco Nagurski, here we go:


10 – Gayle Sayers, Bears (1965-71), 6-0” 198

The halfback out of Kansas is really an anomaly on this list of greats because knee injuries limited him to five full seasons in the NFL and he only played the full 14 game schedule 3 times. Of course, he was named All NFL during each of those five seasons. Despite the short career, Gayle Sayers belongs on this list based on his breakaway running, awesome moves and all-around play as a receiver, runner and kick returner. His then rookie record of 22 touchdowns included 6 long TD’s in one game and his 5.0 yards-per-carry average ties Jim Brown for the highest among all qualified backs.


9- Eric Dickerson, Rams, Colts, Raiders, Falcons (1983-93), 6-3”  220

One of only 11 backs to ever gain more than 1,800 yards in a season, Dickerson accomplished the feat 3 times including a record setting 2,105 in 1984. Eric rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first 7 NFL seasons and made the Pro Bowl team six times and retired as the #2 all-time leading ground gainer.

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Coach’s Corner, Continued

8 – Tony Dorsett, Cowboys (1977-88), 5-11”  192

The 1976 Heisman Trophy winner from Pitt didn’t disappoint in the pros compiling a whopping 12,739 yards rushing. The swift and shifty Dorsett started brilliantly as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and didn’t slow down with eight 1,000 yard seasons in his first nine years with the Cowboys (missing only the strike shorted 1982 season). Tony also set a record that will never be broken; a 99-yard touchdown scamper on Monday Night Football.


7 – Emmitt Smith, Cowboys, Cardinals (1990-2004),   5-10”, 216

The all-time leading rusher in the NFL with 18,355 yards. Emmitt also has found the endzone a remarkable 175 times which include an NFL record of 164 on the ground. A model of consistency, Mr. Smith has logged a record eleven consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and another 3 years over 900 yards. A remarkable back, and no runner may ever pass his career totals, Emmitt Smith places #7 due to his career 4.2 YPC average.


6 – Earl Campbell, Oilers, Saints (1978-85) 5-11”, 232

A wrecking ball in shoulder pads, Campbell was one of the most intimidating runners in the history of the game. Pure power is the image Earl conjures for those of us who saw him play. His memorable Monday Night performance against the Dolphins for 199 yards and 4 TD’s showcased his talent and ability to punish defenders like no other runner. Of course, injuries eventually limited his totals, but he still ran for 9,407 yards with 5 seasons of 1,300+ yards and 74 TD’s.


5 – Bo Jackson, Raiders (1987-90), 6-1” 225

The only member of this list that will not make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Bo Jackson is the most exciting football player I’ve seen; he could score on any play from anywhere. Playing football as a “hobby”, Bo was the most famous modern two-sport athlete playing in the All-Star game and the Pro Bowl the same year. Before an injury ended his career, the 1985 Heisman winner racked up 2,782 in four part-time seasons including a break-out Monday Night game against the Seahawks where he ran for a record 221 yards and 2 TD’s on only 18 carries. His astounding 5.4 career YPC average surpassed every other back in history.


4 – O.J. Simpson, Bills (1969-79), 6-1” 212

With 2,003 yards in 1973, the Juice was the first back ever over that “impossible” mark and he is the only runner to do it in a 14 game season. O.J. had 5 straight 1,000 yard seasons and set a then NFL record with 23 TD’s in 1975. He retired with 11,236 yards rushing, a 4.7 YPC average and 14,368 net yards from scrimmage. The five time Pro Bowler and Heisman winner was one of the most electrifying players in the history of the game.


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Coach’s Corner, Continued

3 – Walter Payton, Bears (1975-87) 5-10” 200

He retired with a record 16,726 rushing yards and 21,803 combined net yards. Walter had 10 seasons with 1,000+ rushing yards, 110 rushing TD’s and 77 games with 100+ yards. Extremely durable, Payton missed one game in his rookie season and then played the next 186 games in a row. With 9 Pro Bowl selections, “Sweetness” was a player with incredible heart, power and agility who will always be remembered as one of the greatest ever.


2 – Barry Sanders, Lions (1989-98), 5-8” 203

Barry Sanders was the most fun to watch. He gained over 1,000 yards in every one of his 10 NFL seasons to become the only player in history to accomplish that feat, including a whopping 2,053 in 1997. Impossible to tackle, Barry had incredible moves, agility and speed that nobody has seen before or since. Over his career, Sanders averaged 5.0 yards per carry and, after a season where he gained 1,491 yards, he retired just shy of the career rushing mark with 15,269 yards.


1 – Jim Brown, Browns (1957-65), 6-2” 232

Brown was the total package and the prototype for all running backs; power, speed, agility, durability and intelligence make him the best ever to play the game. He retired at the top of his game with 12,312 rushing yard, 106 rushing TD’s and a record 5.2 yards per carry average. Never missing a game in his career, Brown is the most complete back in history making the Pro Bowl in all 9 seasons he played. Jim was truly one of a kind!


So, now that you have my top 10 list, here are three drills to help develop the next great running back:

Speed: To be faster, the best thing to do is imply to sprint. Interval training, including running 100 yard and 40 yard dashes is a great start. Running hills, especially uphill running should also help increase speed.

Power: The strip drill is fun for players and will increase their ability to run through traffic. Simply line up some teammates on both sides of a tight 5 yards alley and have the RB run back and through the line at full speed. His teammates should try and slow him down and strip the ball from him.

Agility: The 3 Cone Drill is done at the NFL Scouting Combine to test speed, explosion and changing directions. Three cones are placed on the field forming an “L”. There are 5 yards between each cone. The player starts at Cone 1, runs to Cone 2 and touches the line with his right hand and runs back to Cone 1 and touches the line. Then, the player runs back to Cone 2 and around the outside of it, weaves inside Cone 3 (figure 8) and then cuts tightly around the outside of Cones 3 and 2 before finishing at Cone 1 at a sprint.

We have a ton of great football instruction books and tapes available in the Super Store. You can check out and add tips that you like in the Coaching Tips section of SportsKids.com.

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October Trivia Test

 Hockey is back – try a few of these:

1) Wayne Gretzky won eight straight Hart Trophies. Only one other player has won an award 8 straight times. Who was he?

A)      Maurice Richard

B)      Bobby Orr

C)      Jaques Plante

D)      Phil Espisito

2) Boston Bruins Hall of Famer Eddie Shore played what position during his career?

A)    Goalie

B)    Defenseman

C)    Center

D)    Forward

3) Who was the first goalie to be drafted first overall in the NHL Ameteur Draft?

A)      Steve Rexe

B)      Michel Passe

C)      Michel Larocque

D)      Phil Myre

4) Gordie Howe played his last All-Star game in 1980 at Joe Louis Arena. Late in the game, he got an assist. Who scored the goal?

A)    Real Cloutier

B)    Gilbert Perreault

C)    Ken Linseman

D)    Guy Lafleur

5) Which legend coached the American Olympic Miracle on Ice team in 1980?

A)    Don Cherry

B)    Gerry Cheevers

C)    Herb Brooks

D)    Scotty Bowman


There are trivia games in general sports, baseball, football, hockey and basketball in three different skill levels. Test your sports skills against kids around the world in the SportsKids Game Section.

1) B    2) B    3) B    4) A    5) C

October Sports poll


1)     Who is the greatest Running Back of All-Time?

-        Gayle Sayers

-        Walter Payton

-        Barry Sanders

-        O.J. Simpson

-        Bo Jackson

-        Emmitt Smith

-        Jim Brown

-        Earl Campbell

-        Eric Dickerson

-        Other


Last month’s Poll results: 

1. How are divisions in your youth league created?

-        By Grade – 24.10%

-        By Age (Calendar Year) – 37.35%

-        By Age (Arbitrary Date) – 20.48

-        By Skill – 18.07


2. How many teams are there in an average division?

-        4 Teams – 24.1%

-        6 Teams – 12.05%

-        8 Teams – 33.73%

-        10 Teams – 9.64%

-        12 or More Teams – 20.48%


3. In your opinion, what is the fairest way to divide kids into divisions?

-        By Grade – 28.92%

-        By Age – Calendar Year – 16.87%

-        By Age – Arbitrary Cutoff – 10.84%

-        By Skill – 43.37%


Cast your vote on these and other sports polls at SportsKids.com