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Who Are The Top 5 Players With The Most Rushing Yards In NFL History?

Everyone loves to see a football player running at full speed towards the goal line. The following players have generated a huge amount of excitement over the years by rushing more yards than anyone else in the history of the NFL.

Emmitt Smith – Rushed 18,355 Yards

The player who has rushed more yards than anyone else, Smith achieved his incredible total of 18,355 yards in the 15 seasons that he played as a running back. Most of his success came with the Dallas Cowboys, where he spent the majority of his career.

After being drafted by the Cowboys in 1990, Smith went on to win the Super Bowl 3 times and racked up numerous records as he rushed a huge amount of yards each season. He was voted the MVP in the NFL in 1993 after a particularly strong season saw him rush almost 1,500 yards. With a record 164 rushing touchdowns and over 1,000 points, he is the well-deserved leader on this list.

Walter Payton – Rushed 16,726 Yards

Before Emmitt Smith came along, Walter Payton had rushed himself into the record books with some incredible performances. A running back, Payton stayed with the Chicago Bears for all of this 13-year career in the league. He won a Super Bowl and in 1977 was the MVP after reaching 1,852 years that season.

Consistency was key to building up such a total of rushed yards, as Payton rushed for a minimum of 1,200 yards in almost all of his seasons in the NFL until he finally retired in 1987.

Frank Gore – Rushed 16,000 Yards

Currently a free agent waiting to see if a team wants to contract him, Frank Gore has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 9 different seasons. He has spent most of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, who drafted him in 2005. His son is also a running back and they both scored touchdowns on the same weekend in 2020.

Some fans may remember him best for scoring a touchdown and rushing for more than 100 yards when the 49ers lost the Super Bowl XLVII. He then played with a few other NFL teams and is now waiting to see if he gets the chance to add to his impressive total of yards before retiring.

Barry Sanders – Rushed 15,269 yards

Some analysts believe that Barry Sanders should be higher up on this list, as he retired unexpectedly at the end of the 1998 season, at the age of just 30. Had he carried on playing for as long as some of the other players on this list, he would almost certainly have added even more yards to his career total.

Sanders had an explosive season in college football where he rushed 2,850 yards and scored 42 touchdowns in only 12 games. He then won the rookie of the year award after joining the Detroit Lions and is regarded as one of the best running backs of all times as well as arguably the best player to never play in a Super Bowl.

Adrian Peterson – Rushed 14,820 yards

Another free agent who could still add to his total and move up the list, Peterson set rookie records for rushed yards after joining the Minnesota Vikings in the 2007 draft. A speedy running back, he has played for a few NFL teams and last turned out for the Detroit Lions.

Scouting reports covering Peterson before he joined the NFL are generally positive, but many mention the risk of injury inherent in his upright running style. In the end, he has managed to complete 14 seasons to date although injuries have hampered him in most of those years.

For an extended list, check out who are the top 10 players with most rushing yards here:

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