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6 Great RBs Who Never Won a Super Bowl

Great running backs can create some of the most exciting moments in any NFL game. While great passes and catches have a drama and fervor all their own, the small, deft, and powerful movements of one person breaking through the line, slipping past tackles, and hitting the holes his blockers created at just the right time is a thrill all its own. While it would be nice if every great running back had been properly rewarded with all the promises that seem like they should coincide with talent and a professional career: fat contracts, plenty of accolades, and at least one Super Bowl ring, there are actually quite a few great RBs for whom Super Bowl stardom remained ever elusive. Here are six such unlucky players, every one of them a legend.

1. Barry Sanders

It’s too bad there was never any Super Bowl swag with Sanders’ name on it. For 10 long years, the genius of Barry Sanders was on full display with the Detroit Lions. Not once did he ever rush less than 1,100 yards in a season, and in his 9th season, he rushed for 2,053 and scored 11 touchdowns. When he retired at the end of his 10th season, it was to the dismay of football lovers everywhere, especially because he was well within reach of the all-time rushing record had he kept playing. He reached an NFC Championship Game just once only to lose to Detroit and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

2. Warrick Dunn

A three-time Pro Bowler, Warrick Dunn was a 12th draft pick from Florida State, who found himself playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then the Atlanta Falcons. While he was a formidable offensive threat for both teams — he was incredibly fast and also made a great receiver — neither team was able to secure a Super Bowl win. For a running back, who rushed for over 1,400 yards in a single season and had a total of just under 11,000 for his entire career, the lack of a Super Bowl title is probably hard to reconcile.

Frank Gore

Frank Gore (AngieSix from

3. Frank Gore

A stellar back who currently sits at number 20 on the all-time leading rusher list, eight of his first nine seasons with the San Francisco 49ers saw him rush for a minimum of 1,036 yards. He was on the team that made it to Super Bowl XLVII, but the Baltimore Ravens snatched victory away in the second half. Still, the bell has not yet tolled on Frank Gore’s career, so, while it isn’t incredibly likely, it’s still possible he may achieve that Super Bowl ring now that he’s suiting up with the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately for him the team is a mess this year and Andrew Luck has been out two games already into the season.

4. Thurman Thomas

A five-time Pro Bowler with the four-time AFC champions, the Buffalo Bills, Thurman Thomas has gotten heartbreakingly close to a Super Bowl title. Four years in a row between 1990 and 1993, the Bills reached the biggest game and lost it, and Thomas was on the field for every one. He played 13 seasons in the NFL overall and rushed for just over 12,000 yards. Thankfully, winning a Super Bowl isn’t a prerequisite for the Hall of Fame: Thomas was inducted back in 2007.

5. O.J. Simpson

It can be hard to remember that Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson’s original claim to fame was being one of the best running backs to ever play. His fourth year in the NFL established him as a major offensive player when he rushed for 1,251 yards, but it was his fifth year, when he rushed for 2,003 yards, that proved he was one of the greats. He played a total of 11 seasons and finished with 11,236 rushing yards overall. He only made it to a playoff game once during his entire career.

6. Eric Dickerson

Winner of the coveted Rookie of the Year award, Eric Dickerson was a fantastic running back right out of the gates, and he never looked back. In his first three our of four seasons in the league, he rushed for 2,105, 1,808, and 1,821 and garnered a reputation for being something akin to a ghost when it came to trying to tackle him. He bounced around a bit during his 12 seasons, but he still managed to rush for 13,259 yards. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 1999 without every having made it to a single Super Bowl game.

Being a great player is no guarantee of team success. While many of these running backs got close to a Super Bowl win, far too many of them showed the limitations of being just one guy on a field with 21 others.


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