5 greatest RBs in Auburn-Georgia rivalry
Saturday’s Auburn-Georgia game features two pairs of the SEC’s best running backs. The Tigers come in with Kamryn Pettway and Kerry Johnson, and Georgia counters with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
That’s a pretty impressive quartet, but we’ve come up with a high-quality quintet. When you think of this rivalry, you think of great running backs, so here are the five best running backs who have participated in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.
5. TODD GURLEY, GEORGIA (2012-14)
Gurley made an immediate impact in Athens, rushing for 1,385 yards to lead SEC running backs while scoring a school freshman-record 17 touchdowns. A freshman All-American, Gurley would go on to average 109.5 yards on the ground per game in his career to finish as the Bulldogs’ second-leading rusher all-time behind Herschel Walker with 3,285 yards.
Injuries and an autograph suspension marred Gurley’s final two years with Georgia, but he still was able to make an impact. Despite appearing in just six games his junior season, Gurley rushed for 911 yards and 9 touchdowns.
A member of the 2012 All-SEC team, Gurley also finished with 36 rushing touchdowns, 6 TD catches and 615 receiving yards. The St. Louis Rams selected him with the 10th pick of the 2015 NFL Draft.
4. TRE MASON, AUBURN (2011-13)
Mason’s three years on The Plains were nothing but productive. For starters, he was named the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2013 after rushing for a school-record 1,816 yards, a total topped only by Alabama’s Derrick Henry (2,219), LSU’s Leonard Fournette (1,953), Walker (1,891) and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (1,830) among SEC players.
In one of the most memorable stretches in conference history, Mason rushed for 15 touchdowns and gained 1,119 yards from scrimmage over his last six collegiate starts. During that run, Mason ran for an SEC Championship Game-record 304 yards on 46 carries against Missouri in 2013 and ended his Auburn career with a 195-yard performance against top-ranked Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game.
Mason, who rushed for 2,979 yards and 32 TDs while at Auburn, also added a touchdown catch and 249 receiving yards. After ending his junior season as an All-American, All-SEC performer and the MVP of the SEC Championship Game, Mason was a third-round pick by the Rams in 2014.
3. GARRISON HEARST, GEORGIA (1990-92)
Hearst had an incredible junior year in 1992, when he scored a school-record 19 rushing touchdowns while running for 1,547 yards, the fourth-best single-season total in Georgia history. Walker owns the top three (Nick Chubb would later tie Hearst with 1,547 yards in 2014).
Upon leaving Georgia, Hearst trailed only Walker on Georgia’s all-time list for rushing yards (3,232), all-purpose yards (3,834) and 100-yard rushing games (16). He capped that 1992 season by being named a consensus All-American and the Citrus Bowl MVP.
A member of the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame, Hearst also caught 45 passes for 546 yards and 2 touchdowns. Even though Gurley finished with more career rushing yards than Hearst did, the product of Lincolnton, Ga. and Walker can claim something that Gurley cannot: They both won the SEC Player of the Year and Doak Walker awards.
The then-Phoenix Cardinals selected Hearst with the third pick of the 1993 NFL Draft. A two-time Pro Bowler and the 2001 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Hearst rushed for 7,966 yards and 30 TDs over a four-team, 12-year pro career.
2. BO JACKSON, AUBURN (1982-85)
More than 30 years after playing his last game on The Plains, Jackson remains Auburn’s all-time leading rusher with 4,303 yards. His 43 rushing TDs trail only Cadillac Williams’ 45 for the most in school history.
In 1985, he rushed for an Auburn record 1,786 yards – a mark since broken by Mason – on his way to becoming the Tigers’ first Heisman Trophy winner since Pat Sullivan in 1971. Jackson was an All-American and All-SEC performer in each of his three years at Auburn.
And when he wasn’t running over defenders, Jackson was hitting home runs for Auburn’s baseball team. In 1986, he was drafted by two different leagues; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him with the first pick of the NFL Draft, and the Kansas City Royals chose him in the fourth round of the MLB Draft.
Injuries limited Jackson to nine MLB seasons and four in the NFL. He is widely considered the best football player in Auburn history.
1. HERSCHEL WALKER, GEORGIA (1980-82)
A three-time All-American and All-SEC performer, Walker – as a freshman — led the Bulldogs to their last national championship in 1980. The SEC’s all-time leading rusher with 5,259 yards capped his Georgia career by earning the following honors in 1982: the Heisman Trophy and the UPI College Football Player of the Year, Walter Camp and Maxwell awards.
Walker, who is still in incredible shape at age 54, remains the SEC record-holder for 200-yard rushing games (9), 100-yard games (28) and rushing TDs among running backs (49). Tim Tebow holds the conference’s all-time rushing TD mark with 55.
A member of the Georgia, Georgia-Florida and College Football Halls of Fame, Walker skipped his senior season with the Bulldogs to work for President-Elect Donald Trump and the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, with whom he rushed for 5,562 yards and 88 TDs over a three-year span. Selected in the fifth round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, Walker played for four teams over 12 years in the league and was involved in one of the most lopsided trades in pro football history.