Top 10 Best White Running Backs Ever in NFL History
Christian McCaffrey is not the norm. The only thing more rare than a white running back is a white cornerback. Spoiler Alert: I had to time travel all the way back into the 20s for a couple of these players. These are the top 10 best white running backs ever in NFL history.
If you’re offended by this list, I don’t really care. The reason I ranked this is because I thought it would be fun to do as you rarely see white running backs today. I reside in the most accepting country in the world in Canada and don’t think any more or any less of someone because of the color of their skin. And you shouldn’t either.
Honorable Mention – Kyle Juszczyk
Let’s start off this list with a current player. While Kyle Juszczyk plays full back, he is also one of the best pass catching running backs on this list. He has made his career off being a swiss army knife. Kyle Juszczyk is a tremendous blocker who can catch passes and even make tackles.
While he has never become a lead back, this type of player cannot be understated for how impactful they can be on winning games.
#10 – Rocky Bleier
Movies are made based on guys like Rocky Bleier. This man is a bad ass. Hard as nails.
Rocky Bleier served overseas during the Vietnam war before he joined the NFL. Over that time, a piece of shrapnel due to a grenade exploding near him was stuck in his leg. After getting that treated, he did the only logical thing and joined the NFL where he would end up winning the Super Bowl four different times for the Steelers.
When thinking about the “Steel Curtain” you think about those tough mofos on defense, but Bleier brought that to life on offense. Defense win championships especially with guys like him wearing teams down.
#9 – Ed Podolak
Throughout his career, Podolak showcased versatility in his play. Not only was he an effective runner, but he also contributed significantly as a receiver and as a return man on special teams. This made him a highly valuable asset to his team, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Ed Podolak is well remembered for his standout performance in the 1971 AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Miami Dolphins, which is sometimes referred to as “The Longest Game Ever”. In this game, he racked up a record 350 all-purpose yards (85 rushing, 110 receiving, and 155 on returns). His performance in this game is still one of the best in NFL playoff history.
Although he was never the most dominant running back in the league, his consistent production on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield made him one of the standout players of his era.
#8 – Red Grange
Soon enough I will be making a list for the best nicknames in NFL history and Red Grange aka The Galloping Ghost will absolutely be making an appearance on that list.
Red Grange played in the 1920s, when the NFL was just a baby. His style of play, which included speed, elusiveness, and natural running ability, was revolutionary at the time and helped change the way the game was played.
Grange was instrumental in popularizing professional football in the United States. He was one of the first major college stars to play professionally, and his decision to turn pro helped legitimize the NFL. His barnstorming tour in 1925, in which he played 19 games in 67 days, was crucial in establishing a nationwide fanbase for the league.
Like Ed Podolak, Grange was known for his versatility. He was not just an excellent ball carrier but also an accomplished defensive back and kick returner. His all-around athleticism was exceptional for his era.
Red Grange is often seen as one of the individuals who laid the foundation for the modern NFL. He was a charter member of both the College Football Hall of Fame (1951) and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1963). His number 77 was retired by the Chicago Bears, and he was named to the NFL’s 50th, 75th, and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams.
#7 – Hugh McElhenney
I continue to pull out my time machine with this ranking. When it comes to Hugh McElhenney, he played in an era when players looked like Magneto.
Hugh McElhenny made an immediate impact in the NFL. In his rookie season in 1952 with the San Francisco 49ers, he led the league in punt return yards and was named to the Pro Bowl – an honor he would earn six times in his career.
Like some of the other great running backs, McElhenny was versatile. He was not only an exceptional runner but also a reliable receiver out of the backfield. He finished his career with over 11,000 all-purpose yards, which is a testament to his versatility and ability to contribute in multiple facets of the game.
McElhenny’s impact on the game has been recognized through various honors. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970 and is also a member of the NFL’s 1950s All-Decade Team. His number 39 jersey was retired by the San Francisco 49ers, and he was named one of the 49ers’ top 10 all-time players by ESPN.
#6 – Paul Hornung
Paul Hornung was way ahead of his time in more ways than one. He excelled not only as a running back but also as a placekicker and was even capable of throwing passes. And the also was suspended a full season for a gambling violation which clearly players today continue to follow in his footsteps as a pioneer for the degenerates.
Anyways, back to the football. In 1960, Hornung set an NFL record by scoring 176 points in a 12-game season, a record that stood for 46 years. He accomplished this through a combination of touchdowns, field goals, and extra points, demonstrating his value and versatility.
Paul Hornung also played a crucial role in the Green Bay Packers’ dynasty under Coach Vince Lombardi. He was an integral part of the Packers’ championship teams in 1961, 1962, 1965, and the first Super Bowl in the 1966 season.
Honorable Mention – Bronko Nagurski
Bronko Nagurski was known for his remarkable combination of size and strength. Standing at 6’2″ and weighing around 235 pounds, he had a frame that was unprecedented for his era. His physical style of running, characterized by breaking tackles and bulldozing defenders, was legendary.
In addition to playing as a fullback, Nagurski was also an exceptional defensive lineman. His versatility allowed him to contribute on both sides of the ball, and he was even more dominant on defense than offense.
#5 – Jim Taylor
Jim Taylor was known for his powerful running style. He was exceptionally tough and had a knack for gaining extra yards after contact. His physicality made him one of the most feared running backs of his era.
In 1962, he led the league in rushing with 1,474 yards and was named the NFL Most Valuable Players. He became the first player to record five straight seasons with over 1,000 rushing yards.
Jim Taylor was a key figure in the Green Bay Packers’ dynasty under coach Vince Lombardi in the 1960s. He helped the team win four NFL Championships (1961, 1962, 1965, and 1966) and was part of the Packers team that won the first Super Bowl (Super Bowl I) following the 1966 season.
#4 – Mike Alstott
The A-Train was one of the last players you wanted to tackle. Mike Alstott was known for his bruising running style. He was a powerful runner who was difficult to bring down, especially in short-yardage situations. His ability to break tackles and gain extra yards after contact made him a fan favorite. If you wanted to see someone make defenders miss, this wasn’t your guy, but if you wanted to see someone run over defenders, look no further.
Alstott was particularly effective in the red zone and was often the go-to option for the Buccaneers when they were close to the end zone. His nose for the end zone made him one of the league’s top touchdown producers during his career.
Although primarily known as a fullback, Alstott was versatile. He was effective as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. His receiving ability made him a dual-threat and a valuable asset in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense.
#3 – Christian McCaffrey
This is where the ranking gets tricky. There is no doubt in my mind that Christian McCaffrey is the most talented and well rounded white running back ever. Does that make Christian McCaffrey the best white running back ever? There’s some subjectivity to that answer.
When I’m ranking the best ever, I consider overall talent, production, accomplishment and longevity. Because Christian McCaffrey is a current player, the latter traits on those list are lacking.
That being said, I believe when it’s all said and done and he hangs up the cleats, Christian McCaffrey will be considered the best white running back ever.
In the 2019 season, McCaffrey set the NFL record for most receptions by a running back in a single season with 116 catches. He also became only the third player in NFL history to record at least 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season, joining Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk.
He is the most accomplished pass catcher and will likely find more playoff success joining the 49ers instead of carrying the lowly Panthers of his time.
#2 – Larry Csonka
We’re now entering the cream of the crop in terms of longevity and consistency with the top 2.
Larry Csonka was known for his punishing running style. He was a powerful fullback who was not afraid to run through defenders. His physicality made him an ideal player for the Miami Dolphins’ run-heavy offense in the 1970s.
Csonka played a vital role in the Miami Dolphins’ Super Bowl victories in Super Bowl VII and Super Bowl VIII. He was named the Super Bowl VIII Most Valuable Player after rushing for 145 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Dolphins defeat the Minnesota Vikings.
He was also a key member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins team that completed the only perfect season in NFL history, winning all 14 regular-season games, two playoff games, and the Super Bowl.
When Csonka retired, he was the Dolphins’ all-time leading rusher, a record that stood for more than two decades. His number 39 jersey was retired by the Dolphins, and in 1987, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
#1 – John Riggins
For the football historians, this ranking should not shock you at all. The stats speak for themselves as John Riggins consistent production is far more impressive than any other player on this list.
The Diesel as known for his bruising, no-nonsense running style. He had a combination of size and strength that made him incredibly difficult to tackle, especially in short-yardage situations.
Riggins was at his best in high-pressure situations. He is best known for his performance in Super Bowl XVII, where he rushed for 166 yards on 38 carries and scored a touchdown, leading the Washington Redskins to a 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins. His iconic 43-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-1 is one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history. To no surprise Riggins was named the Super Bowl MVP for his performance.
He also holds the NFL record for most rushing touchdowns in postseason play with 12. He also ranks highly in several other postseason rushing categories.
This was a long, successful career, playing 14 seasons in the NFL. Even in the latter stages of his career, he remained hyper-productive. In the 1983 season, at the age of 34, he led the league with 24 rushing touchdowns.
In recognition of his contributions to the game, John Riggins was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. His number 44 jersey is also retired in Washington.
For the most up-to-date NFL content, follow me on Instagram @sogfootball! I’m always open for debate.