The Top Ten Running Backs in the History of UT football, as voted on by Inside Texas subscribers:
1. Earl Campbell
2. Ricky Williams
3. Roosevelt Leaks
4. Cedric Benson
5. Chris Gilbert
6. James Saxton
7. Steve Worster
8. Jim Bertlson
9. Eric Metcalf
10. Priest Holmes
The top spot in the voting went to the Tyler Rose. Earl Campbell, the 1977 Heisman Trophy winner, dominated the field during his tenure at the 40 arces. Perhaps the toughest player in the history of Texas football, Campbell wore down some of the best defenses in the nation, literally seeking out and running over defenders. His 1,744 yards during his senior season, to go along with 19 touchdowns, was a SWC record that stood for 16 years. Campbell finished his career at Texas with UT rushing records of 4,443 yards and 41 touchdowns. He was inducted into both the College Football and NFL Halls of Fame. Campbell’s most dominant performance in college came in the final regular season game of the 1977 season. Campbell rushed for a 222 yards and four touchdowns in the Longhorns’ 57-28 blowout win over No. 12 Texas A&M.
No. 2 on the list of greatest running backs is Ricky Williams, one of the most prolific players in the history of college football. Williams’ 6,279 yards and 72 touchdowns broke the NCAA’s All-Time Rushing Yardage, Touchdown and Scoring records. Those records have since fallen, but Williams still holds or shares 20 NCAA records. Williams capped off his incredible career at Texas by winning the 1998 Heisman Trophy after rushing for 2,124 yards and 27 touchdowns, both UT records.
The MVP of the Southwest Conference in 1973, Roosevelt Leaks ran for a conference record 1,415 yards that season. A truly dominant back each time he touched the ball, Leaks would have had many more yards if injury had not cut his senior season short. In all, Leaks ran for 2,923 yards and 26 touchdown, but is known even more for becoming the first black player in any sport to take All-American and All-Conference honors for the Texas Longhorns.
The second-leading rushing in Texas football history, Cedric Benson ran for 5,540 yards and 64 touchdowns, also becoming the sixth-leading rusher in NCAA history. His 1,834 yards, his senior year, in which he rumbled for 5.6 yards per carry, is second all-time at Texas.
Chris Gilbert became the first player in NCAA history to run for 1,000 yards in each of the three years he was eligible (freshmen did not play at the time). Gilbert totaled 3,231 yards in all and was All-SWC all three years.
Next is James Saxton. Dubbed by Darrell Royal the “quickest player in America,” Saxton averaged 7.9 yards per carry average his senior year and finished third in the Heisman voting.
Generally regarded as the best true fullback in Texas history, Steve Worster was a hard-nosed runner out of the wishbone who ran for 2,353 yards and won two national titles.
Lining up behind Worster in wishbone was Jim Bertlson. The tough back ran for 2,510 yards and 33 TDs at 6.1 ypc at Texas.
Working as a running back, receiver and returner for Texas, Eric Metcalf put up 5,705 all-purpose yards, fourth on UT’s all-time list. He had ten 100-yard rushing games and three 100-yard receiving games, also becoming the first player to post 100-yard rushing and 100-yard games in the same season.
Finally there’s Priest Holmes. Holmes may be 30th on UT’s all-time rushing list, but he was a fast and talented back when he had his opportunity (unfortunately for Holmes, he was at Texas at the same time as the program’s all-time rushing leader during his junior and senior years).
Just off the list: A.J. “Jam” Jones
Some other notable running backs receiving votes: Ted Koy, Tommy Ford, Jack Crain, Hodges Mitchell
The VY Factor: Despite the fact the Vince Young wasn’t a candidate for the top running backs list, the transcendent quarterback still showed up on a lot of lists and would have come close to cracking the Top 10. That’s what happens when you’re fifth in Texas’ all-time rushing list and you weren’t even a running back.
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