12 Most Career Rushing Yards in the NFL History

This article discusses the most career rushing yards NFL players who have scored more than 12000 rushing yards in their career.

In NFL history, there are more than 25 players with over 10,000 rushing yards. The running backs take the responsibility to rush and crush the yards. 

Walter Payton
Walter Payton (Source: We Are The Mighty)

A good rushing yard is over 100, and in most cases, the best running back can score over 2000 per season. 

Here we have the 12 great running backs who scored over 10,000 rushing yards in their NFL career. And, some of the players mentioned are still active in the industry, which means their record is sure to increase in the future.

12 Most Career Rushing Yards in the NFL History

Here is the overview of the list of the most career-rushing yards in the NFL ever. All the information in this article has been derived from ESPN and Wikipedia

Name of the playerRushing Yards
12. Marshall Faulk12,279
11. Jim Brown12,312
10. Tony Dorsett12,739
9. Eric Dickerson13,259
8. Jerome Bettis13,662
7. LaDainian Tomlinson13,684
6. Curtis Martin14,101
5. Adrian Peterson14,820
4. Barry Sanders15,269
3. Frank Gore16,000
2. Walter Payton16,726
1. Emmit Smith18,355

12. Marshall Faulk

  • NFL Draft: 1994
  • Rushing yards: 12,279
  • Status: Retired 
  • Team: St Louis Rams

Marshall Frank, the Most Valuable Player of the NFL in 2000, is the only player to cross 12,000 rushing yards and 6000 receiving. Frank finalized his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Frank made his NFL debut with the Indianapolis Colts and played for them from 1994-98. In his first game, he displayed his skills with a whopping 1,282 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 1999, he transferred to the St. Louis Rams and retired with them in 2006.

Marshall Faulk
Marshall Faulk (Source: Pro Football Hall of Fame)

In 1999, he received the NFL Offensive Player of the Year and got selected for the 1999 Pro Bowl. The following year, he was the NFL MVP and recorded history with 26 total touchdowns.

Overall, in his NFL career, he recorded 12,279 yards with 4.3 yards per carrying. Moreover, he scored 100 rushing and 36 receiving touchdowns. 

11. Jim Brown

  • NFL Draft: 1957
  • Rushing yards: 12,312
  • Status: Retired 
  • Team: Cleveland Browns

Jim Brown is a former fullback who dedicated his career to the Cleveland Browns. Brown was drafted in the 1957 NFL Draft and played for the Browns until 1965. 

Brown is one of the best running backs in NFL history, who scored 12,312 rushing yards in his career. Moreover, he recorded 106 rushing and 20 receiving touchdowns with 2.499 receiving yards. 

As soon as Brown started his NFL career, he displayed that he was worth it because he won the NFL Rookie in his debut year. Also, he was the NFL Champion of 1964 and three times NFL Most Valuable Player of the Year in 1957, 1958, and 1965. 

Similarly, he has a nine times Pro-Bowl selection and eight times First-team All-Pro. In addition, he has received the NFL rushing yards leader of the year eight times and the NFL rushing touchdowns leader five times. 

Also, read the Top 12 NFL Teams Till Now.

10. Tony Dorsett

  • NFL Draft: 1977
  • Rushing yards: 12,739
  • Status: Retired 
  • Team: Denver Broncos

Tony Dorsett, the running back of the Denver Broncos, also played for the Dallas Cowboys for most of his career. While with the Cowboys, he won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and played for all 11 seasons.

The years he played for the Cowboys had been the highlight of his career as he won a Super Bowl XII with them. In addition, he also won the National Champion, Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, and Walter Camp Award in 1976

Moreover, he also holds the NFL record for the 99-yard rushing touchdown shared with Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. 

Overall, in his NFL career, he recorded 12,739 rushing yards with 3,554 receiving yards. Furthermore, he scored 17 rushing and 13 receiving touchdowns. 

9. Eric Dickerson

  • NFL Draft: 1983
  • Rushing yards: 13,259
  • Status: Retired
  • Team: Atlanta Falcons

Eric Dickerson was drafted in the NFL Draft in 1983 by the Los Angeles Rams. Dickerson also played for the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, and Atlanta Falcons in his career. 

During his rookie year, he won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the year and went on to win the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1986. Moreover, he was also the NFL rushing yards leader in 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1988.

Eric Dickerson
Eric Dickerson (Source: Los Angeles Sentinel)

Dickerson holds several NFL records like 2,105 rushing yards in a season, 1,808 rushing yards as a rookie, and 248 rushing yards in a playoff. Similarly. he won the NFL rushing touchdowns leader in 1984. 

In his entire NFL career, he recorded 13,259 rushing yards with 2,137 receiving yards. Additionally, he holds a record of 90 rushings and 6 receiving touchdowns. 

8. Jerome Bettis

  • NFL Draft: 1993
  • Rushing yards: 13,664
  • Status: Retired
  • Team: Los Angeles/St Louis Rams

Jerome Abram Bettis Sr. is a former American football running back drafted in the 1993 NFL draft by the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams. Bettis also played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1996 to 2005 and won the Super Bowl XL. 

He holds two times First-team All-Pro and one Second-team All-Pro selection. Similarly, he had six times Pro-Bowl selections in his NFL career. In addition, Jerome also won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1996. 

Moreover, he also won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2001. He accumulated 13,664 rushing with 3.9 yards per carrying and 1,457 receiving yards regarding his NFL career statistics. Additionally, he has 91 rushing and 3 receiving touchdowns in his stats.

Also, read the Top 10 Best NFL Hall of Famers.

7. LaDainian Tomlinson

  • NFL Draft: 2001
  • Rushing yards: 13,684
  • Status: Retired 
  • Team: New York Jets

LaDainian Tramayne Tomlinson is a former NFL player who played for the San Diego Chargers and New York Jets. Regardless of having a short NFL career, he broke several records and earned many titles. 

Tomlinson has the NFL record for 28 rushing touchdowns, 31 scrimmage seasons, and 18 consecutive games. Moreover, in his NFL career, he scored 13,684 rushing yards and 145 rushing touchdowns. 

He also won the NFL Most Valuable Player, NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (2006), and the Bert Bell Award. In addition, he had five times Pro-Bowl and three times First-team and Second-team All-Pro selections. 

Similarly, he also won the NFL rushing yards leader in 2006 and 2007 and the NFL rushing touchdowns leader in 2004, 2006, and 2007. 

6. Curtis Martin

  • NFL Draft: 1998
  • Rushing yards: 14,101
  • Status: Retired 
  • Team: New York Jets

Curtis Martin is a former NFL running back for the New York Jets and previously for the New England Patriots. He was drafted in the NFL 1995 Draft by the Patriots. In his debut year, he won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

He also won the NFL rushing yards leader in 2004 and the Bart Starr Award in 2006. Pro Football Hall Fame has Martin’s name inducted in 2012. 

His NFL career statistics have recorded 14,101 rushing and 1,329 receiving yards with 4.0 yards per carrying. Moreover, he has 90 rushing and 10 receiving touchdowns in his career.

In 2004, Martin took the lead with 1,697 rushing yards in NFL and was the oldest player to win that title. The same year FedEx awarded him with Ground Player of the Year.

5. Adrian Peterson

  • NFL Draft: 2007
  • Rushing yards: 14,820
  • Status: Active 
  • Team: Detroit Lions

Adrian Peterson is a running back player of the Detroit Lions who was drafted in the 2007 NFL Draft. Currently, he is a free agent who is under a one-year contract with the Lions. In the 2012 NFL season, he scored 2,097 rushing yards which made him the NFL MVP.

During his debut year, he won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, who scored 3000+ yards in his first two seasons. He also has a record for being the 5th fastest player ever to cross 5000 yards. 

Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson (Source: Blogging The Boys)

In 2012, Adrian received the NFL Most Valuable Player of the Year and NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Similarly, his other accomplishments include two times Bert Bell Award, Hall Trophy, three times NFL rushing yards, and two times rushing touchdowns leader. 

Peterson is still active in his NFL career and has already scored 14,820 rushing and 2,466 receiving yards until now. Moreover, he has 118 rushing and 6 receiving touchdowns.

4. Barry Sanders

  • NFL Draft: 1989
  • Rushing yards: 15,269
  • Status: Retired 
  • Team: Detroit Lions

Barry Sanders was drafted in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions and spent his career with them. In his debut year, he was the winner of the NFL Offensive Rookie, winning the NFL rushing yards leader the following year.

Moreover, he won the rushing yards award four times in 1990, 1994, 1996, and 1997.

Sanders is one of the most excellent running backs who won the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1997. After retirement, he was included in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

In his NFL career, he recorded 15,269 rushing and 2,921 receiving yards with 8 yards per carrying. Similarly, he also has a self-record of 99 rushings and 10 receiving touchdowns. 

3. Frank Gore

  • NFL Draft: 2005
  • Rushing yards: 16,000
  • Status: Active 
  • Team: New York Jets

Franklin Gore Sr is currently a free agent who plays for the New York Jets. He was drafted in the 2005 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He has played for other NFL teams namely, the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills. 

Gore holds a five times Pro Bowl selection and one Second-team All-Pro. Similarly, he received the Art Rooney Award in 2016 and was the BCS national champion of 2001. 

In NFL history, he has several records, namely most games (241) played by a running back and the first player with 12 consecutive 1200 yards.

As of now, he has 16,000 rushing and 3,985 receiving yards with 4.3 yards per carrying. Furthermore, Gore records 81 rushings and 18 receiving touchdowns. 

2. Walter Payton

  • NFL Draft: 1975
  • Rushing yards: 16,726
  • Status: Retired 
  • Team: Chicago 

Walter was a former American football running back who dedicated his career to the Chicago Bears. He received his first Super Bowl XX win with the Bears. 

He was a nine times Pro Bowl selectee and five times First-team, and three times Second-team All-Pro. In 1977, he was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, and Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. 

1977 had been an excellent year for him as he also was the NFL rushing yards and rushing touchdowns leader. Walter also won the AP NFL MVP award the same year.

1. Emmit Smith

  • NFL Draft: 1990
  • Rushing yards: 18,355
  • Status: Retired 
  • Team: Arizona Cardinals

Emmit Smith is a former NFL running back who has the record of the highest rushing yards in NFL history with 18,355. In his debut year, he won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

In 1993, Smith was the only running back who won a Super Bowl, NFL Most Valuable Player, and KCC NFC Offensive Player of the Year.

Moreover, he is a three times Super Bowl winner, four-time NFL rushing yards leader, and three-time NFL rushing touchdowns leader. 

Most Career Rushing Yards NFL Player Emmit Smith
Most Career Rushing Yards NFL Player Emmit Smith (Source: Pro Football Hall of Fame)

Smith’s NFL career has been extraordinary as he holds the most incredible rushing yards and 164 rushing touchdowns and 4,409 rushing attempts ever. 

Finally, Emmit Smith got his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

In summary,

With that, we are at the end of the NFL running backs with the highest rushing yards in history. All the players mentioned have over 12,000 rushing yards. Some of them are still active in their field.

Can we expect a record-breaking rushing yard by them sometime in the future?

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