Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nittany Lions in the Pros - Running Backs

The penultimate installment in my Nittany Lions in the Pros feature focuses on the running back position. It is a glamor position; one that is always scrutinized yet carries a certain mythos about it. RBs are often featured and held in high regard at both the college and professional level. Their ability to pound between the tackles, pick up first downs, and occasionally score a long TD are all welcomed additions to a teams game plan - and they're fun to watch.

Like the linebacker position, the running back position has its fair shares of Saturday legends at Penn State. Below is a list of those weekend warriors that made the jump to the next competition level: the NFL. The list is rather long and shows a bit more promise than some of the more recent positions profiled.

Click to enlarge statistics.

Over the last 43 NFL seasons 31 former Penn State RBs have taken the field in the NFL and those players have accumulated 175 seasons of experience, about 6 seasons/player. On average a former Nittany Lion will start for only 2 of their 6 seasons in the league. Luckily a few players pick up the slack, as usually is the case. In the last four decades PSU RBs have been selected to 25 Pro Bowls and have been named to the All Pro First Team seven times. The All Pro designations are split amongst three players while the Pro Bowls are more evenly distributed. Six Penn State alums have made it to the Pro Bowl as a featured back. Unfortunately there have been 10 Penn Staters selected in round one. I say "unfortunately" because, usually, they failed to live up to their hype. Heisman winner John Cappelletti, 1995 #1 overall pick Ki-Jana Carter, D.J. Dozier, Curtis Enis, Booker Moore, and Blair Thomas are all former Nittany Lion backs taken in round one that never made the Pro Bowl. Fortunately for our track record there were four that made an impact: Curt Warner, Larry Johnson, Franco Harris, and Lenny Moore.


This one is easy though it probably isn't the man many would expect. While Franco Harris is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Larry Johnson has had his share of success (when he isn't injured or in trouble), the former PSU player who made the biggest impact in the NFL is none other than Mr. Lenny Moore. Moore actually barely makes the cut because much of his career took place before the Super Bowl (or AFL-NFL Championship Game as it was originally called). Moore spent his entire 12 year career with the Baltimore Colts, amassing 1,069 rushing attempts for 5,174 yards (4.8 yards/carry) and 63 TDs. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 1956 and became a First Team All Pro in 1958, the first of four straight years he was given the honor. Overall he totaled five First team All Pro selections and seven Pro Bowl berths. He actually ranks 13th on the All-Time Career Total TD list with 113, one in front of Shaun Alexander and three behind Hall of Famer John Riggins. Moore himself was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975. He won two NFL Championships (1958 & 1959) and appeared in two more (1964 & 1965). Sorry, Franco, but Moore is my choice as Nittany Lion Standout Running Back.

2009 DRAFT
No former PSU players will be entering this years draft as a running back.

NEXT WEEK: Quarterbacks take center stage in the final installment for Nittany Lions in the Pros. Is Kerry Collins the most decorated Penn State signal caller?

For more information on running backs and the NFL draft, check out my recent draft trends and averages for the position.

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