Texas has a strong claim as being the best state for producing all-time great running backs. Then again, Texas also has some quality competition for that title. The NFL’s all-time rushing leader has come out of Florida, as has the most physically-dominant runner of our time.
Here are five of the greatest running backs ever to come through Florida.
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Emmitt Smith - Escambia
Emmitt Smith’s penchant for posting incredible numbers began in high school, where he put up 2,424 rushing yards as a sophomore, 2,915 more as a junior and finished with 8,804 yards total. At the time that was the state record. In college Smith set 58 new records at Florida. Smith saved his greatest work for the highest level, though. In the NFL he ran for 18,355 yards, still the most in league history. He also scored 175 total touchdowns, made eight Pro Bowl teams, earned four All-Pro honors and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Derrick Henry - Yulee
Frank Gore - Coral Gables
Frank Gore may get the GOAT award for durability at this position. He racked up 39 touchdowns as a Senior and was ranked No. 5 overall in the country coming out of high school. Gore’s college career at Miami was severely limited by multiple ACL injuries. However, he went on to enjoy a long and fruitful career in the NFL. The 49ers picked him in the third round of the 2005 draft. Gore played the next 10 years in San Francisco, followed by stops with the Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets. All together, he appeared in 250 regular season and playoff games as a pro. Along the way Gore made five Pro Bowls and was named to the All 2010s team.
Travis Henry - Frostproof
As a high school Senior, Travis Henry ran for 4,087 yards and scored 42 touchdowns. That won him the Mr. Florida Football award, as well as Parade All-American honors. In college Henry was part of Tennessee’s national championship team in 1998 and finished his collegiate career with 3,078 rushing yards. Henry went on to become a second-round pick by Buffalo in the 2001 NFL draft. He made the Pro Bowl the following season and finished his career with over 6,000 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns.
Marquette Smith - Lake Howell
Marquette Smith had an equally-impressive senior season, running for 2,409 yards and winning the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year award. Smith didn’t get much playing time in two years at Florida State, so he transferred to Florida Central, where he put up 2,569 career yards. He spent a short time in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers before knee injuries ended his career prematurely.