Around the NFL today, it seems as if speed is king. Long gone are the days (for the most part) where a team’s leading running back can be a big bruising back with much more power than speed. But throughout the history of the NFL, there are a ton of great examples of big, bruising runners who were among the best RBs in the league.
1. Earl Campbell
While Campbell did have some solid speed, it was definitely his power that made him one of the best of all time. When this guy had the ball, he would much rather go right through you than go around you. The guy was a wrecking ball in every sense of the word with his 5’11 240 lb frame that wasn’t easy for anyone to stop. Not only was the guy an extremely tough runner, but the Oilers ran him into the ground during his time in Houston as he regularly ran the ball more than 300 times a season and still never backed down from the contact!
2. Jerome Bettis
This guy is probably one of the most recent examples and he fits the bill to a t. Not only was the bus built like a defensive lineman (which is always good for a bruising back), but he also had extremely quick feet and elite vision. While most backs of his size and stature were relegated to goal line and short yardage work only, “The Bus” was the lead back for the Steelers for years and rumbled his way into the top 10 in rushing yard and rushing touchdowns, while also taking home a Lombardi Trophy.
3. Jim Brown
Not only is Jim Brown the best bruising back of all time, he is the best running back of all time. Brown would almost never run away from opposition tacklers, he would go through them and want to inflict as much pain as possible. The guy 6’2 and 230 pounds of pure, unadulterated power and he put that on display on Sunday’s en route to becoming one of the best in history. Despite playing under 10 years in the league and retiring at the age of 29, Brown finds himself in the top 5 in a lot of NFL records and basically rewrote the NFL rushing record book after his career was over.