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15 Best Running Backs for the Los Angeles Rams

NFL football has been one of Kelley's major interests since the 1960s. He's watched every Super Bowl except #XVII in 1983.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

The Los Angeles Rams are the only National Football League team to win three NFL championships representing three different cities—Cleveland (1945), Los Angeles (1951), and St. Louis (1999), and such success demands they have some of the best running backs in the history of the NFL.

Please keep in the mind the following list includes both retired players and current personnel, and the total yards for each player doesn’t include post-season yardage.

Now let’s begin the countdown!

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

15. Charles White

Years for the Rams: 1985 to 1988

College: University of Southern California

NFL Draft: 1st Round, #27 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 2,924


Charles White had a tremendous college career playing as a tailback for the USC Trojans, for which he received numerous awards for his play in 1978 and 1979: the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Award; and he was the second player in history to win two Rose Bowl Player of the Game Awards (1979 and 1980).

White was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1970, but he didn’t play well, while battling personal demons, gaining only 942 yards with nine touchdowns over four years. After White’s release, he was signed by the LA Rams, where he played well for four seasons, rushing for 2,122 yards with 14 touchdowns and caught 31 passes for 176 yards; he also received kickoffs for 626 yards.

In 1987, White’s best year with the Rams, he was selected to the Pro Bowl and made the First-Team All-Pro squad; he also won the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

14. John Cappelletti

Years: 1974 to 1978

College: Penn State University

NFL Draft: 1st round, #11 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 3,193


John Cappelletti had a spectacular college career playing for the Nittany Lions, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1973. During his senior year, he rushed for 1,522 yards and 17 touchdowns. Then he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993, and Joe Paterno, a Penn State football coach, said Cappelletti was the best football player he ever coached.

Although Cappelletti’s college career may have been somewhat better, he was a capable fullback for the Rams; he didn’t have blinding speed but he could pound the defense and make first downs. Over five seasons, Cappelletti rushed for 2,246 yards and caught passes for 947 yards, scoring 18 touchdowns.

Cappelletti played his last four seasons with the San Diego Chargers.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

13. Cleveland Gary

Years: 1989 to 1993

College: University of Georgia

NFL Draft: 1st Round, #26 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 3,493


Cleveland Gary played college football for the Georgia Bulldogs and then the Miami Hurricanes, becoming a First-Team All-American with Miami.

Gary played five seasons for the Rams, rushing for 2,634 yards with 24 touchdowns; he also received passes for 855 yards with five touchdowns.

Gary finished his football career by playing one season with the Miami Dolphins. He also played minor league baseball for the Montreal Expos, displaying great power as an outfielder.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

12. Paul Younger

Years: 1949 to 1957

College: Grambling State University

NFL Draft: none

Total Rams Yardage: 4,275


Nicknamed “Tank” because he would steamroll over hapless, would-be tacklers, Paul Younger was an outstanding running back in college football, scoring 60 touchdowns, an all-time NCAA record. After graduating college, Younger was selected as the Black College Football Player of the Year.

Undrafted by any NFL team, Younger signed with the LA Rams as a free agent, joining the famous “Bull Elephant” backfield, rushing for 3,296 yards, eventually becoming the sixth-leading rusher in Rams history. Incredibly, Tank also played linebacker on defense, intercepting three passes.

Younger made the Pro-Bowl four seasons: 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1955. Rushing, receiving, running back punts and kickoffs, he accumulated a total of 4,275 yards with 32 touchdowns.

Younger became the first black player in the NFL Pro Bowl game and the first black Assistant General Manager in the NFL (the San Diego Chargers 1975-1987). Also, Younger was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

11. Jon Arnett

Years: 1957 to 1963

College: University of Southern California

NFL Draft: 1st round, #2 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 4,803


Nicknamed “Jaguar,” because he was relatively small yet had catlike reflexes and speed, Jon Arnett had a great career as a running back for the USC Trojans and was eventually elected to the USC Athletic Hall of Fame, as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.

Arnett was All-Pro his first five seasons with the Rams and was a first team All-Pro in 1958. Over seven seasons with the Rams he rushed for 2,892 yards, plus 1,911 yards receiving, scoring a total of 27 touchdowns.

Arnett finished his career by playing three seasons with the Chicago Bears.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

10. Willie Ellison

Years: 1967 to 1972

College: Texas Southern

NFL Draft: 2nd Round, #33 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 4,907


Wearing #33, his draft number, over six seasons Willie Ellison played halfback, fullback and kickoff returner and eventually replaced Larry Smith as the team’s number one running back in 1971. Willie Ellison’s yardage gained for the Rams was 2,901 rushing, 760 receiving and 1,011 returning kickoffs; and he scored 26 touchdowns.

Ellison played his greatest game on December 5, 1971, when the Rams battled the New Orleans Saints, a game in which Ellison rushed 26 times for 247 yards, breaking Jim Brown’s NFL record of 237 rushing yards in a game against the LA Rams in 1957.

Ellison finished his NFL career by playing two years for the Kansas City Chiefs.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

9. Wendell Tyler

Years: 1977 to 1982

College: University of California at Los Angeles

NFL Draft: 3rd Round, #79 pick

Total Rams Yards: 4,983


A flashy, fleet afoot tailback, Tyler rushed for 3,240 yards with the UCLA Bruins, fifth all-time for rushing yardage; and Tyler was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016. Notably, Tyler was on the 1975 team that won the Pac-Eight Conference and also beat the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl that year.

Over six seasons with the Rams, Tyler rushed for 3,266 yards, received passes for 1,147 yards, returned kicks for 570 yards and scored 43 touchdowns. Notably, in 1980, Tyler played in Super Bowl XIV against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game the Rams lost 31 to 19.

Wendell Tyler finished his career by playing four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

8. Jerome Bettis

Years: 1993 to 1995

College: University of Notre Dame

NFL Draft: 1st Round, #10 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 3,734


Jerome Bettis had a great career with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame; he rushed for a total of 1,912 yards on 337 carries, scoring 27 touchdowns.

Foregoing his senior year at Notre Dame, Bettis joined the Rams, acquiring the nicknames “the Battering Ram” or “the Bus,” referring to his stocky physique – 5 foot 11 inches and 255 lbs - drawing comparisons to the legendary Earl Campbell.

Playing for the LA and St. Louis Rams, Bettis rushed for 3,091 yards with 13 touchdowns and caught 75 passes for 643 yards and one TD. His first year for the Rams, 1993, he was selected to the Pro Bowl and became a First-Team All Pro.

After three seasons with the Rams, Bettis was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he played for 10 years and was eventually inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

7. Cullen Bryant

Years: 1973 to 1982

College: University of Colorado

NFL Draft: 2nd Round, #31 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 6,724


Cullen Bryant played defensive back at the University of Colorado. In 1973, he played in both the Senior Bowl and the College All-Star Game.

In Bryant’s first four years with the Rams, he was mostly a punt and kickoff return specialist. But in 1978 he became a full-time fullback, rushing for 3,119 yards and 20 touchdowns in his 11 years with the Rams; and when receiving passes, he gained 1,148 yards with three touchdowns. Also, for receiving punts and kickoff returns, he gained 2,467 yards with 3 TDS, compiling a total yardage with the Rams of 6,724.

Bryant played in many NFL playoff games, gaining 409 yards with two TDs. And when the Rams tangled with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV, Bryant rushed for a touchdown, finishing the game with six carries for 30 yards.

Notably, when running with the football, Bryant would lower his head like a bull and barrel into opposing players with such force that the collision cracked like thunder!

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6. Todd Gurley II

Years: 2015 to 2019

College: University of Georgia

NFL Draft: 1st Round, #10 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 7,494


While playing for the Georgia Bulldogs, Todd Gurley had two great seasons, rushing for 1,385 yards with 17 touchdowns in 2012; and in 2013, Gurley ran for 989 yards with 10 TDs. In 2014, Gurley missed many games after suffering an ACL knee injury and then entered the NFL draft the following year.

Like Eric Dickerson, Gurley has an impressive combination of power and speed, and he certainly displayed such prowess after joining the Rams in 2015. The first four seasons with the Rams, he’s gained 6,430 total yards with 56 touchdowns. In 2015, 2017 and 2018 he made the Pro Bowl, and in 2017 he was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

But Gurley had a mediocre year in 2019, rushing for 857 yards with 12 TDs. Seemingly, his chronic knee problem didn’t improve, and probably because of this and contractual dynamics, the Rams released Gurley in March 2020.

Lawrence McCutcheon (center)

Lawrence McCutcheon (center)

5. Lawrence McCutcheon

Years: 1972 to 1979

College: Colorado State University

NFL Draft: 3rd Round, #70 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 7,985


Lawrence McCutcheon was the number one rusher for the Rams during his time with the team, gaining 6,186 yards with 23 touchdowns; and he caught 198 passes for 1,799 yards with 13 touchdowns. McCutcheon was selected to the Pro Bowl five straight years from 1973 to 1977.

McCutcheon played for the Rams when they consistently made the playoffs - 1973 to 1977 and 1979; he scored two touchdowns in the 1976 playoffs. And in Super Bowl XIV against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1980, he threw a 24-yard TD pass to Ron Smith. Unfortunately, the Rams lost that Super Bowl.

McCutcheon finished his career playing for the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

5. Dick Bass

Years: 1960 to 1969

College: University of the Pacific

NFL Draft: 1st round, #2 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 8,836 yards


Dick Bass had a spectacular college career playing for the UOP Tigers, for which he rushed 1,361 yards during his senior year in 1958; he was also selected as an All-American that year.

While playing for the LA Rams, Bass was selected to the Pro-Ball in 1962, 1963 and 1966 and was NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1966. Over his 10-year career with the Rams, Bass rushed for 5,417 yards and scored 34 touchdowns; he also caught passes, received punts and kickoffs, finishing his career with 8,936 total yards.

Nicknamed “the Scooter” because he was only five foot nine and weighed about 205 pounds, Bass was a great all-around player. Don Hewitt, an equipment manager for the Rams for many years, said Bass was the best blocking running back he ever saw. Perhaps because of this all-purpose ability, Bass was also called the “the one-man show.”

Dick Bass worked as a color analyst for Rams’ radio broadcasts from 1977 to 1986.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

3. Steven Jackson

Years: 2004 to 2012

College: Oregon State University

NFL Draft: 1st Round, #24 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 13,462


Steven Jackson had a surpassingly good college career, rushing for 3,625 yards and 39 touchdowns, not counting 680 yards gained while catching 66 passes and 240 yards gained on seven kickoff returns with one TD. Notably, Jackson’s all-purpose yards are an Oregon State record.

Jackson joined the LA Rams in 2004, providing backup for an aging Marshall Faulk. Although Jackson played for Rams’ teams that failed to make the playoffs from 2005 to 2012, he became the franchise leader by rushing for over 10,000 yards, becoming the 27th running back in NFL history to rush for over 10,000 yards, including eight seasons rushing for over 1,000 yards, only the sixth running back in history to attain that lofty goal.

Jackson finished his career by playing with the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

15-best-running-backs-for-the-los-angeles-rams

2. Eric Dickerson

Years: 1983 to 1987

College: Southern Methodist University

NFL Draft: 1st Round, #2 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 8,157


While playing for SMU’s backfield, the so-called Pony Express, Dickerson rushed for 4,450 yards on 790 carries with 48 touchdowns, breaking Earl Campbell’s record for yards and attempts.

Having an incredible combination of speed and power, Dickerson joined the Rams in 1983, when he rushed for 1,808 yards, an NFL rookie record. Then, in 1984, Dickerson rushed for 2,105 yards, an NFL record for rushing yards in a season. In his five years with the Rams, he rushed for 7,245 yards with 56 Touchdowns.

Notably, in 1985, he rushed for 248 yards in a playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, also an NFL record.

Over Dickerson’s 11-year career, he gained a total of 15,396 yards rushing and receiving and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1999.

Marshall Faulk (center)

Marshall Faulk (center)

1. Marshall Faulk

Years: 1999 to 2006

College: San Diego State University

NFL Draft: 1st Round, #2 pick

Total Rams Yardage: 11,030


Marshall Faulk had a phenomenal career playing for the San Diego Aztecs; in 1991, against UOP, he rushed for 386 yards on 37 carries, scoring seven touchdowns, an NCAA record. Excelling at receiving as well, Faulk piled up 5,552 total yards gained for the Aztecs.

In 1999, Faulk was traded to the St. Louis Rams and soon acquired the catchphrase “Marshall Law in the Faulklands.” Playing for the Rams, whose explosive team became known as the “Greatest Show on Turf,” Faulk rushed for 1,381 yards with seven touchdowns and caught passes for 1,048 yards with five TDs. Over seven years with the Rams, Faulk produced 11,000 yards of total offense.

In 1999, Faulk won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Then, in 2000, he won the Most Valuable Player Award.

Perhaps the greatest all-purpose running back ever, Faulk is the only NFL running back to gain over 12,000 yards rushing and 6,000 yards receiving. Faulk was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2011.

Please leave a comment!

© 2019 Kelley Marks

Comments

Rams fan on December 01, 2019:

I agree Dickerson could have went down as the Rams greatest RB ever.

However, he was all about him.

Dont forget about Marcus Dupree.

He was another rb who could have left his mark on the gm

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on July 08, 2019:

Thanks for the comment, Mikey Karlovsky! I haven't tried fantasy football. For now, at least, I think I'll stick with the real deal. Later!...

Mikey Karlovsky on July 08, 2019:

Jackson was honestly why I was a fantasy football championship contender

TT from Anywhere on July 07, 2019:

His complaints about money is what got him shipped off to Indianapolis

Kosmo Kelley on July 07, 2019:

I don't remember Dickerson's issues regarding money, but I do recall that when he got into his thirties he lost speed and became mediocre but, of course, that was long after his left the Rams. Later!

TT from Anywhere on July 06, 2019:

Eric Dickerson had the tools to be the best ever, but unfortunately he was all about the money

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