Top 5 Florida running backs of all time
Florida is one of those programs with a rich running back history. In fact, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher hails from the University of Florida in Mr. Emmitt Smith.
The state of Florida is always loaded with elite skill position players, and running back is certainly one of those positions.
Former receiver Percy Harvin is one of those hybrid players who played both receiver and running back. Obviously, Harvin was one of the most dynamic playmakers in program history, but for this exercise, Harvin is considered a wide receiver, not a running back. Harvin is the Gators’ all-time best receiver in program history.
Let’s give this a shot…
5. John L. Williams (1982-85): With the benefit of the “Great Wall of Florida”, the nickname given to the Gators’ tremendous offensive line, John L. Williams and Neal Anderson played on the same teams. Williams finished with 2,409 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, while also adding 863 yards receiving. Some consider Williams a fullback, listed at 5-11, 231 pounds, but let’s call him a jumbo back. Williams was a second-team All-SEC back in ’84 and ’85, and he became an honorable mention All-American in ’85, along with his teammate Anderson. Williams went on to become a first-round pick at No. 15 overall.
4. Neal Anderson (1982-85): Neal Anderson played for the Gators prior to Emmitt Smith’s arrival, and up to that point, he was arguably the best back in school history. Anderson remains Florida’s third all-time leading rusher with 3,234 yards and 30 touchdowns. He was first-team All-SEC in 1985, along with being an honorable mention All-American in ’84 and ’85. Anderson went on to make four NFL Pro Bowls. Anderson went on to become a first-round pick at No. 27 overall.
3. Fred Taylor (1994-97): What a player Fred Taylor truly was for the Gators! To give you a sense on how loaded the SEC has been at running back throughout history, Taylor didn’t make the top 25 backs of all time. That tells you how loaded the conference has been. Taylor finished his career with 3,075 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns. Most know Taylor for his NFL career, but his silver visor was awe-inspiring at Florida. Taylor helped Florida win SEC Championships in 1994-96, as well as a national championship in ’96. He became first-team All-SEC in ’97, and was also named a first-team All-American. Taylor went on to become a first-round pick at No. 9 overall.
2. Errict Rhett (1990-93): Although Emmitt Smith is the No. 1 back in Florida history, Errict Rhett isn’t far behind. In fact, Rhett still holds the Gators’ career rushing record with 4,163 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns. Rhett led Florida in rushing all four of his seasons. With Rhett’s aid, the Gators won two SEC Championships in ’91 and ’93 under Steve Spurrier, the same years Rhett made first-team All-SEC as a running back. He was an All-American in ’93. Rhett was a straight baller in college, and if not for Smith, he’d be the best back in Florida Gators history. Rhett was a second-round pick at No. 34 overall.
1. Emmitt Smith (1987-89): It didn’t take long for Emmitt Smith to show off his immense talent at the University of Florida. After not starting the first two games of his career, Smith earned the start during the third game of the season, and he promptly broke Florida’s single-game rushing record. Smith torched Alabama with 39 carries for 224 yards and two touchdowns in the upset win. He was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Year and finished ninth in the Heisman voting. During his sophomore season, Smith injured his knee and was held out of several games, but his junior season was the best of his career. Smith finished that season with 1,599 yards rushing, but he owned 58 school records following the 1989 season. Today, most of Smith’s records still stand the test of time. He finished his career as a three-time first-team All-SEC member, is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and was a unanimous All-American in 1989. Smith was a first-round pick at No. 17 overall.