Top 5 Rutgers Running Backs of all-time
The Rutgers football team has experienced some prolific running backs. This list highlights the careers of the best five backs in the history of the Scarlet Knights. The "Birthplace of College Football" has produced running backs who have received prestigious honors like All-American, or have been drafted to play professional football for the NFL.
1. Ray Rice (2005-2007)
Rice was a driving force for Rutgers' offense from 2005-2007. He played under Greg Schiano and dominated the opposing defenses with his impressive abilities. Rice was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
He finished his NFL career being the Raven’s second all-time leader in rushing yards in franchise. In the NFL he was selected to three pro bowls, the 2011 rushing touchdown leader, the scrimmage yards leader and was a Super Bowl Champion.
In Rice's first year, the Knights had their first winning season in 13 years and played in only the second bowl in the football program's 136-year history. In 2006, Rutgers won a school record that tied 11 games and registered the its highest ever season-ending national poll ranking, finishing at No. 12 in both the Associated Press and Coaches Polls.
As a true freshman, Rice finished the season as the starting tailback for the Knights. Rice rushed for 1,120 yards and 5 touchdowns during his freshman campaign, including a 217-yard performance.
As a sophomore, Rice gained 1,794 rushing yards with 20 touchdowns. His rushing totals set Rutgers' single-season rushing yardage record, shattering J. J. Jennings' mark of 1,353 set in 1973. He set the rushing touchdown record in 2007 with 35 career rushing touchdowns.
Rice was a finalist for the Maxwell Award and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Rice was named Big East Offensive Player of the Week a school record of three times in 2007. In that span, Rice rushed for more thaan 200 yards, 201 yards against North Carolina, 202 yards against South Florida and a career-high 225-yard game against Pittsburgh.
Rice ended his sophomore season with 170 yards on 24 carries with 1 touchdown during the inaugural Texas Bowl to give the Knights their first bowl victory ever in a 37-10 win over Kansas State. He was named MVP of that game.
2. J.J. Jennings (1971-1973)
Jennings is arguably one of the top running backs in Rutgers history. He was the team leader in rushing yards in 1972 and 1973. Jennings set nearly every rushing record in the Knights' record books.
Jennings holds records for 19 career 100-yard games, seven consecutive 100-yard performances, 21 rushing touchdowns in a single season, record for most touchdowns in a game with 5 and is second in program history in career touchdowns with 34.
He held the record for career touchdowns until Rice beat him with 35 touchdowns in 2007. He also is third on the list for all of the following accomplishments: most career rushing yards with 2,935 yards, career rushing attempts with 650, rushing yards in a season with 1,353 yards, rushing attempts in a season with 303 and points in a season with 128 points.
Jennings was twice named First Team All-East and the team MVP. He was also an honorable mention All- American in 1973.
He would go onto continuing his career in 1974 by declaring for the NFL and World Football League (WFL) draft. He was selected in the ninth round of the NFL draft to the Kansas City Chiefs and the 10th round of the WFL draft to the Memphis Southmen. He had a standout career for the Southmen in the WFL, accumulating honors like WFL MVP and First Team All-WFL.
3. Brain Leonard (2003-2006)
Leonard had a remarkable career as a Rutgers player. Leonard left a mark on the Knights' record books as he finished his career ranked fourth all-time rushing yards with 2,775 yards, fourth all-time rushing touchdowns with 32 touchdowns, sixth all-time receiving yards with1,864 yards and first all-time receptions with 207 receptions.
During the opening game of the 2005 season against Illinois, Leonard became nationally recognized for his hurdling ability. He took a pitch from quarterback Ryan Hart, and hurdled over the top of the opposing teams linebacker 5 yards away from the line of scrimmage. He would retain his balance and take off for a 83-yard touchdown. The play was named the top college football highlight of that season's opening weekend by ESPN.
In 2006, he was promoted as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Despite being acknowledged as a Heisman candidate, Leonard elected to take on a diminished role as a blocker and allow Rice to become a star. He was also named starting fullback on the 2007 Senior Bowl North Squad, where he finished with 16 yards rushing and 13 yards receiving, third overall on the team in total yardage.
Leonard would go onto a pro career in the NFL. After running a 4.49 40-yard dash, he was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft. During his seven-year NFL career, Leonard played for the St. Louis Rams, the Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints.
4. Terrell Willis (1993-1995)
Willis was one of the leading rushers in Rutgers history. He had the explosive ability of speed, balance and impressive moves. From 1993 to 1995 he exposed the opposing defenses with spin moves and stiff arms. He would rush for 3,114 yard on 588 carries and 20 touchdowns.
Willis gained national attention his freshman year when he had a record setting, 2,026 all-purpose yards. In 1994, Willis ran for 1,080 yards on 216 carries with 5 touchdowns and again earned first-team All-Big East honors. In 1995, he gained another 773 yards on 177 carries and 2 touchdowns.
On Nov. 12, 1994, Willis rushed for a school-record 232 yards on 35 carries and 2 touchdowns.
5. Jawan Jamison (2011-2012)
Jamison represented what it meant to be a Knight. A scrappy, hardworking individual who was very motivated. He played for Rutgers for two years and dealt with a lot with off-the-field family issues and with injuries. He would go onto be drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft. Jamison played for the Washington Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Then, he went to play arena football for the Bismarck Bucks.
During his short career on the Banks, he showed a lot of great talent. Jamison redshirted his first year in 2011 and rushed for 897 yards on 231 carries with 9 touchdowns. He was the MVP of the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl after rushing for 131 yards on 27 carries with 2 touchdowns.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2012, he rushed for 1,054 yards on 242 carries 4 touchdowns. Now, had Jamison played another season, he would have been higher on the list. He may have even been able to make his mark in the record books as well.
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