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The National Football League rushing champion is the player – usually a running back – who gains the most rushing yards from scrimmage in the regular season.

Rushing titles by seasonEdit

Numbers in parentheses next to a player's name indicate multiple titles for that player.[1]

NFL denotes National Football League (1920–present)

AAFC denotes All-America Football Conference (1946–1949)

AFL denotes American Football League (1960–1969)

= Hall of Famer
= Team Won Championship
Season Player Team Yards Games Notes
1932 Cliff Battles Boston Braves 576 8
1933 Jim Musick Boston Redskins 809 12
1934 Beattie Feathers Chicago Bears 1004 11 Rookie season; first 1,000 yard rusher; NFL record 8.4 yards per carry
1935 Doug Russell Chicago Cardinals 499 12
1936 Tuffy Leemans New York Giants 830 12
1937 Cliff Battles (2)Washington Redskins[2] 874 10
1938 Byron White Pittsburgh Pirates 567 11 Later served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
1939 Bill Osmanski Chicago Bears 699 10
1940 Byron White (2) Detroit Lions 514 11 First repeat champion; first to win title with different teams
1941 Pug Manders Brooklyn Dodgers 486 11
1942 Bill Dudley Pittsburgh Steelers 696 11
1943 Bill Paschal New York Giants 572 9
1944 Bill Paschal (2) New York Giants 737 10
1945 Steve Van Buren Philadelphia Eagles 832 10
1946 (NFL) Bill Dudley (2) Pittsburgh Steelers 604 11
1946 (AAFC) Spec Sanders New York Yankees 709 13 Inaugural AAFC season
1947 (NFL) Steve Van Buren (2) Philadelphia Eagles 1008 12
1947 (AAFC) Spec Sanders (2) New York Yankees 1432 14
1948 (NFL) Steve Van Buren (3)Philadelphia Eagles[3] 945 11
1948 (AAFC) Marion Motley Cleveland Browns[4] 964 14
1949 (NFL) Steve Van Buren (4) Philadelphia Eagles[5] 1146 12 First 1,100 yard rusher
1949 (AAFC) Joe Perry San Francisco 49ers 783 11 Final AAFC season
1950 Marion Motley (2)Cleveland Browns[6] 810 12
1951 Eddie Price New York Giants 971 12
1952 Dan Towler Los Angeles Rams 894 12
1953 Joe Perry (2) San Francisco 49ers 1018 12
1954 Joe Perry (3) San Francisco 49ers 1049 12 First consecutive 1,000 yard rusher in NFL history
1955 Alan Ameche Baltimore Colts 961 12
1956 Rick Casares Chicago Bears 1126 12
1957 Jim Brown Cleveland Browns 942 12 Rookie season
1958 Jim Brown (2) Cleveland Browns 1527 12 First 1,500 yard rusher
1959 Jim Brown (3) Cleveland Browns 1329 12
1960 (NFL) Jim Brown (4) Cleveland Browns 1257 12
1960 (AFL) Abner Haynes Dallas Texans 875 14 Inaugural American Football League season
1961 (NFL) Jim Brown (5) Cleveland Browns 1408 14 First NFL season of 14 games
1961 (AFL) Billy Cannon Houston Oilers[7] 948 14
1962 (NFL) Jim Taylor Green Bay Packers[8] 1474 14
1962 (AFL) Cookie Gilchrist Buffalo Bills 1096 14 First AFL 1,000 yard rusher
1963 (NFL) Jim Brown (6) Cleveland Browns 1863 14 First 1,800 yard rusher
1963 (AFL) Clem Daniels Oakland Raiders 1099 14
1964 (NFL) Jim Brown (7)Cleveland Browns[9] 1446 14
1964 (AFL) Cookie Gilchrist (2)Buffalo Bills[10] 981 14
1965 (NFL) Jim Brown (8) Cleveland Browns 1544 14
1965 (AFL) Paul Lowe San Diego Chargers 1121 14
1966 (NFL) Gale Sayers Chicago Bears 1231 14
1966 (AFL) Jim Nance Boston Patriots 1458 14 First AFL rusher to lead all rushers (AFL and NFL)
1967 (NFL) Leroy Kelly Cleveland Browns 1205 14
1967 (AFL) Jim Nance (2) Boston Patriots 1216 14
1968 (NFL) Leroy Kelly (2) Cleveland Browns 1239 14
1968 (AFL) Paul Robinson Cincinnati Bengals 1023 14
1969 (NFL) Gale Sayers (2) Chicago Bears 1032 14
1969 (AFL) Dickie Post San Diego Chargers 873 14 Final AFL season; last rushing title below 1,000 yards
1970 Larry Brown Washington Redskins 1125 14 First season of AFL-NFL merger
1971 Floyd Little Denver Broncos 1133 14
1972 O. J. Simpson Buffalo Bills 1251 14
1973 O. J. Simpson (2) Buffalo Bills 2003 14 First 2,000-yard NFL season; NFL record 143.1 yards per game
1974 Otis Armstrong Denver Broncos 1407 14
1975 O. J. Simpson (3) Buffalo Bills 1817 14
1976 O. J. Simpson (4) Buffalo Bills 1503 14
1977 Walter Payton Chicago Bears 1852 14
1978 Earl Campbell Houston Oilers 1450 15 Rookie season; First NFL season with 16 regular-season games
1979 Earl Campbell (2) Houston Oilers 1697 16
1980 Earl Campbell (3) Houston Oilers 1934 15
1981 George Rogers New Orleans Saints 1674 16 Rookie season
1982 Freeman McNeil New York Jets 786 9* *Strike-shortened season
1983 Eric Dickerson Los Angeles Rams 1808 16 Rookie season
1984 Eric Dickerson (2) Los Angeles Rams 2105 16 NFL single-season rushing record
1985 Marcus Allen Los Angeles Raiders 1759 16
1986 Eric Dickerson (3) Los Angeles Rams 1821 16 Only rushing champion with 400+ carries (404)
1987 Charles White Los Angeles Rams 1374 15* *Strike-shortened season; White's only season with more than 350 yards rushing[11]
1988 Eric Dickerson (4) Indianapolis Colts 1659 16
1989 Christian Okoye Kansas City Chiefs 1480 15
1990 Barry Sanders Detroit Lions 1304 16
1991 Emmitt Smith Dallas Cowboys 1563 16
1992 Emmitt Smith (2)Dallas Cowboys[12] 1713 16 First Rushing Champion to win Super Bowl
1993 Emmitt Smith (3)Dallas Cowboys[13] 1486 14 Missed first two games (contract dispute)
1994 Barry Sanders (2) Detroit Lions 1883 16
1995 Emmitt Smith (4)Dallas Cowboys[14] 1773 16
1996 Barry Sanders (3) Detroit Lions 1553 16
1997 Barry Sanders (4) Detroit Lions 2053 16 Highest rushing total of the 1990s
1998 Terrell Davis Denver Broncos[15] 2008 16 Second consecutive season with 2,000-yard rusher.
1999 Edgerrin James Indianapolis Colts 1553 16 Rookie season
2000 Edgerrin James (2) Indianapolis Colts 1709 16
2001 Priest Holmes Kansas City Chiefs 1555 16
2002 Ricky Williams Miami Dolphins 1853 16
2003 Jamal Lewis Baltimore Ravens 2066 16 Highest rushing total of the 2000s.
2004 Curtis Martin New York Jets 1697 16 Only rushing champion to win after 30th birthday (31)
2005 Shaun Alexander Seattle Seahawks 1880 16
2006 LaDainian Tomlinson San Diego Chargers 1815 16 Also set record for rush TDs (28)
2007 LaDainian Tomlinson (2) San Diego Chargers 1474 16 Last player to repeat rushing titles
2008 Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings 1760 16 NFC's last rushing champion
2009 Chris Johnson Tennessee Titans 2006 16 Also set NFL record for yards from scrimmage (2,509)
2010 Arian Foster Houston Texans 1616 16 Texans' first rushing champion
2011 Maurice Jones-Drew Jacksonville Jaguars 1606 16 Jaguars' first rushing champion
2012 Adrian Peterson (2) Minnesota Vikings 1898 15 Current Leader through 15 games

Players with multiple rushing titlesEdit


*AAFC rushing title

Consecutive rushing titlesEdit

There have been twelve occurrences in which a player has won two or more consecutive rushing titles.

5 consecutive titles:

  • Jim Brown (1957-'61); Brown is the only player to lead the league in rushing more than three consecutive times.

3 consecutive titles:

  • Steve Van Buren (1947-'49)
  • Jim Brown (1963-'65)
  • Earl Campbell (1978-'80)
  • Emmitt Smith (1991-'93)

Back-to-back titles:

  • Bill Paschal (1943-'44)
  • Joe Perry (1953-'54)
  • Jim Nance (1966-'67)
  • Leroy Kelly (1967-'68)
  • O.J. Simpson (twice, 1972-'73 & 1975-'76)
  • Eric Dickerson (1983-'84)
  • Barry Sanders (1996-'97)
  • Edgerrin James (1999-2000)
  • LaDainian Tomlinson (2006-'07)

Cleveland Browns Hall of Famer Jim Brown won 8 rushing titles in nine seasons. O.J. Simpson and Emmitt Smith won four rushing titles in five seasons; Eric Dickerson won 4 in six seasons.

Rushing titles with different teamsEdit

Two players have won rushing titles with two different teams.

  • Byron "Whizzer" White: Pittsburgh Pirates & Detroit Lions
  • Eric Dickerson: Los Angeles Rams & Indianapolis Colts

2000 yard rushing seasonsEdit

Six players have run for more than 2,000 yards in the regular season. O. J. Simpson is the only player to have done so in a 14-game season; the others did so in 16-game seasons. No season to date has produced more than one 2,000-yard rusher. No franchise has had more than one 2,000 yard rusher.

Rookie Rushing ChampionsEdit

Since 1955, nine players have won either the AFL or NFL rushing title in their first season:

Heisman Trophy Winning Rushing ChampionsEdit

Eight players have won both a Heisman Trophy, and an AFL/NFL rushing title:

  • Alan Ameche (won Heisman 1954, won NFL rushing title 1955)
  • Billy Cannon (won Heisman 1959, won AFL rushing title 1961)
  • O. J. Simpson (won Heisman 1968, won NFL rushing titles 1972-73, 1975–76)
  • Earl Campbell (won Heisman 1977, won NFL rushing titles 1978-80)
  • George Rogers (won Heisman 1980, won NFL rushing title 1981)
  • Charles White (won Heisman 1979, won NFL rushing title 1987)
  • Barry Sanders (won Heisman 1988, won NFL rushing titles 1990, 1994, 1996–97)
  • Ricky Williams (won Heisman 1998, won NFL rushing title 2002)

Franchises without Rushing ChampionsEdit

Only three active NFL franchises have not produced a rushing champion in either the AFL or NFL; incidentally, all three currently play in the NFC South, and began play after 1965:

The Cleveland Browns have produced the most rushing champions, with 12 (although the last Cleveland player to win the rushing title did so in 1968).

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ProFootballReference.com
  2. 1937 NFL Championship
  3. 1948 NFL Championship
  4. 1948 AAFC Championship
  5. 1949 NFL Championship
  6. 1950 NFL Championship
  7. 1961 AFL Championship
  8. 1962 NFL Championship
  9. 1964 NFL Championship
  10. 1964 AFL Championship
  11. Pro-Football-Reference.com: Charles White
  12. Super Bowl XXVII
  13. Super Bowl XXVIII
  14. won Super Bowl XXX
  15. won Super Bowl XXXIII