As sports fans, we all have our favorite players. The ones who helped us to fall in love with the game. A lot of times the debate is “who is the Mount Rushmore of blank”. It’s easy to talk about the players of old who helped mold the game. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, and Jim Brown, but honestly, if you were born in the mid to late 90s, you just don’t understand their greatness as much as those who watched it.
As is with most things, you won’t change the opinion of people set in their ways, sports fans included. So, let’s make our own Millenial Mount Rushmore shall we? The only way to make this list is not only the performance of your game but how the story of football will be told after you leave. Here are your best Running Backs of the 2000s.
Millennial Mountain: Running Back Mount Rushmore
Frank Gore, 2005-2020 (San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets)
In what may be the most controversial pick of the mountain, we start the running back list with a man who may be the most underrated great player we have ever seen.
Frank Gore was a 16-year player at a position that consistently takes the most contact in the sport. In nine of those seasons, he had over 1000 rushing yards and in two others he had 960+ rushing yards. He wasn’t just a rushing threat though. In five seasons, he had over 300 receiving yards.
While this may not be the sexiest pick, it is exactly what epitomized Gore. Hard work, heavy production, and little praise or recognition. He was most known as a 49er and has seven franchise records to his name. He also has five NFL records including most consecutive 1,200-yard seasons (12) and most games played by a running back (241). He currently sits at third all-time in career rushing yards with 16,000 and is one of just five running backs with nine 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
Love the pick or hate it, it’s hard to argue against what Frank Gore was in the NFL.
READ MORE: Millennial Mountain of Quarterbacks
Marshall Faulk, 1994-2006 (Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams)
Although his career before and after the year 2000 was exactly the same amount of years, it is safe to say those six years in the early part of the decade were enough to make Marshall Faulk a part of this list, so the focus will be strictly on his years with the St. Louis Rams.
In the year 2000, his second year on the Rams, he was the NFL MVP and won his second offensive player of the year award with a stat line of 1,359 yards rushing, 830 yards receiving, and a total of 26 touchdowns which, at the time, was the NFL record. This was a season where he MISSED TWO GAMES DUE TO INJURY!
The next year, he was again the NFL Offensive player of the year but finished second to teammate Kurt Warner in the MVP race after compiling just 42 fewer yards than his MVP year and 21 total touchdowns. He holds 16 NFL records including being the only player with 12,000 rushing yards and 6,000 receiving yards. Only half of his career was in the 2000s, but his six years are arguably better than some players’ whole careers, so it has to be noted! Marshall Faulk was a big staple of the “Greatest Show on Turf”.
LaDainian Tomlinson 2001-2011 (San Diego Chargers, New York Jets)
If you were a football fan in the early 2000s then you probably already knew it wouldn’t be long until we got to LaDainian Tomlinson. So where do you start?
Maybe we start with the fact that he had nine straight 1,000+ yard rushing seasons to start his career. In the first seven of those seasons, he tied hall of famer Eric Dickerson for most consecutive seasons of 1,200+ yards rushing.
What about the MVP year of 2006, arguably the greatest running back season ever recorded? 1,815 yards rushing with 28 rushing touchdowns, paired with 508 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Oh and that same season he THREW TWO TOUCHDOWNS!
He still holds 18 records, including six consecutive years of 15+ touchdowns, 38 games with two+ rushing touchdowns, and a personal favorite, most consecutive games with a touchdown (18). Tomlinson was one of those players that made the position just look… easy. When he was in the field there wasn’t a question of who the best player was. It’s hard to argue the GOAT status, but don’t forget about our number one…
Adrian Peterson 2007-2021 (Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks)
The only player that makes a case for #1 greater than Tomlinson is Adrian Peterson. Peterson burst onto the scene in 2007 and was named rookie of the month during his first two months in the league. He burst into mainstream relevance after a franchise-record 224 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a game against the Chicago Bears.
In 2012, Peterson won the NFL MVP with an astounding stat line of 2,097 rushing yards. Peterson didn’t break as many records as you would think, but the ones he did may never be broken. He is the only player ever to score a rushing touchdown with six different teams, the most 60-yard touchdown runs in a career (13), and the most rushing yards in an eight-game span with 1,322. When Adrian Peterson stepped on the field, you had to load the box and he proved that sometimes, even that didn’t matter!