The debate for ‘DBU’ — where the greatest defensive backs in college football hail from — swings from Florida to LSU to Ohio State every year. When it comes to “wide receiver U,” there’s no argument that some of the game’s greatest today were once Clemson Tigers. As far as running backs are concerned, nowhere is the position more well-known than with the Georgia Bulldogs.
There must be something in the water down in Athens because the school has churned out All-American caliber ball-carriers every decade, and the program shows no signs of slowing down under head coach Kirby Smart. Some of the best running backs to ever play college football wore red and black, and these 15 made our list of the greatest Dawgs to ever tote the rock.
Georgia’s 15 Best Running Backs
15. Robert Edwards (1994-97)
Statistics: 2,033 rushing yards, 455 receiving yards, 30 total touchdowns, four INTs
The Bulldogs’ leading rusher in both the 1996 and 1997 seasons, Robert Edwards came to Athens as a defensive back from Washington County High School in Georgia. After picking off four passes in 1994, he converted to running back the following season. All he did was tie the Georgia school record with five total touchdowns on opening day of 1995 against South Carolina, proving that he was one of the storied program’s best all-around football players.
In 23 career games as a running back, Edwards’ 27 rushing touchdowns tied for the 10th-most in program history before he became the 18th overall pick by the New England Patriots during the 1998 NFL Draft. During a flag football game during Pro Bowl week his rookie season, Edwards blew out his knee and nearly lost his leg before recovering to play a few successful years in the Canadian Football League.
14. Kevin McLee (1975-77)
Statistics: 2,581 rushing yards, 21 total touchdowns
Georgia’s leading rusher from 1976 to 1978, Kevin McLee led Georgia to the 1976 SEC Championship after rushing for 1,058 yards under head coach Vince Dooley. That same season, McLee earned All-SEC honors as well as being named an honorable mention All-American. McLee left Athens in 1977 as Georgia’s career leader in rusher at the time.
McLee briefly played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before retiring from football to live and work near Los Angeles. He passed away in 2007 after suffering a stroke at 52 years old.
13. Rodney Hampton (1987-89)
Statistics: 2,668 rushing yards, 438 receiving yards, 25 total touchdowns
Rodney Hampton was cursed with playing behind two more running backs who you’ll meet later on this list, but his Bulldogs career from 1987 to 1989 is hard to ignore as he averaged 5.7 yards per carry and logged 472 rushes in college football. His 2,668 rushing yards still rank ninth all-time in Bulldogs history.
Hampton’s most productive season was in 1989 as Georgia’s feature back for the first time. He’d rush for 1,059 yards and score 12 touchdowns, but the Dawgs finished that season with a 6-6 record. Smith was drafted by the New York Giants 24th overall in 1990 and mad two Pro Bowls during his eight-year career. Six times he’d rush for over 1,000 yards in the NFL, and he won Super Bowl XXV with the G-Men to stamp an impressive football career.
12. Tim Worley (1985-88)
Statistics: 2,038 rushing yards, 217 receiving yards, 29 total touchdowns
While Worley’s Georgia football career was shortened due to an ACL tear that ended his sophomore season, he returned to the Bulldogs in 1988 after one season at a junior college to deliver one of the best single seasons in program history.
Worley’s All-American campaign as a senior produced 1,216 yards and 17 touchdowns, which was the second-most rushing scores in one season at the time. After leading Georgia to a nine-win season and a Gator Bowl victory in head coach Vince Dooley’s final season, Worley became the seventh overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft.
11. Terrell Davis (1992-94)
Statistics: 1,657 rushing yards, 529 receiving yards, 18 total touchdowns
Just like everyone else who pegged him as a sixth-round NFL Draft pick, Terrell Davis is probably underrated on this list. You can’t dispute his Hall of Fame resume as the 1998 NFL Most Valuable Player and two-time Super Bowl champion, but T.D. wasn’t the same level of superstar when he had his start at Georgia.
In three seasons after transferring over from Long Beach State, he never eclipsed 900 rushing yards in a single season and never scored more than eight touchdowns in a year. A hamstring injury during his senior year limited him to just 128 touches in 1994, but Davis did average 5.4 yards per carry on 372 career attempts, which only foreshadowed the Hall of Fame pro career that was coming.
10. D’Andre Swift (2017-19)
Statistics: 2,885 rushing yards, 666 receiving yards, 25 total touchdowns
Swift was named to preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year entering his junior season. The 215-pounder even caught some Heisman Trophy buzz coming back for Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs, but he didn’t blow the doors off the SEC like everyone expected. Swift lost carries to Brian Herrien, Zamir White, Elijah Holyfield, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel during his career, but still finished seventh on UGA’s all-time rushing list.
The Philadelphia native entered the 2020 NFL Draft after posting career-high numbers in attempts (196) and rushing yards (1,218) during his final season in Athens. Had the Bulldogs wide receiving corp not been wrecked with injuries in 2019, there’s a chance Swift, quarterback Jake Fromm and the entire Dawg offense could’ve put up way bigger numbers. Regardless, Swift’s God-given talent and speed kept the running back tradition alive at Georgia.
9. Lars Tate (1984-87)
Statistics: 3,017 rushing yards, 376 receiving yards, 37 total touchdowns
In 1986 and 1987, Lars Tate was the engine that led Georgia to 17 wins over two seasons, and he did it in grand style. The Indianapolis, Indiana, native racked up 16 rushing touchdowns in ’86, followed that up with 14 touchdowns in ’87 as he finished his college career with the second-most rushing touchdowns in school history. Tate still ranks third on the all-time list in that department.
Not to be outdone, he’s one of just six Georgia running backs to finish with more than 3,000 career rushing yards. The second round pick in 1988 only played three NFL seasons, but his legacy in Athens was stamped forever.
8. Knowshon Moreno (2007-08)
Statistics: 2,734 rushing yards, 645 receiving yards, 32 total touchdowns
A champion sprinter during his time at Middletown South High School, one of the best running backs in New Jersey played two of the best years in Georgia football history. The 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year racked up 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns in year one, then followed that up with 1,400 more and 18 total touchdowns in 2008. After helping the Dawgs to 21 wins in two seasons, Moreno jumped to the NFL.
Had Moreno stayed at Georgia another season, there’d potentially be only one running back with more yards and touchdowns in Dawgs history. Don’t worry, he’s coming…
7. Charley Trippi (1942-46)
Statistics: 1,908 rushing yards, 1,870 passing yards, 46 total touchdowns
The No. 62 is one of just four jerseys retired by the Georgia, and it belonged to 1946 Maxwell Award winner Charley Trippi. After helping the Bulldogs to an 11-1 record and Rose Bowl victory in 1942, Trippi was called into service during World War II and didn’t return to Georgia until midway through the 1945 season. Then, he took over.
Trippi earned first-team All-SEC honors in his first season back, then went on to deliver Georgia the school’s first undefeated season in 1946. Trippi capped the year with a 20-10 win over North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl to finish 11-0. He’d be named an unanimous All-American, SEC Player of the Year and Maxwell Award winner in 1946. He still ranks ninth in total touchdowns in Bulldogs history.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 1945 NFL Draft accumulated more than 7,000 total yards in professional football and was a three-time All-Pro for the Chicago Cardinals. Trippi is a member of both the Pro Football and College Football Hall of Fame.
6. Frank Sinkwich (1941-42)
Statistics: 2,271 rushing yards, 2,331 passing yards, 60 total touchdowns
The first Heisman Trophy winner in Georgia Bulldogs history came in 1942, and Frank Sinkwich’s career is nothing short of incredible.
In 1941, Sinkwich led the NCAA with 1,103 rushing yards. The next year, he led Georgia to an SEC Championship, Rose Bowl victory and 11-1 record when he set the NCAA record with 2,187 yards of total offense. The two-time All-American was named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year over Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. For reference of how impactful Sinkwich was in 1942, that was the same year where Williams led the all of Major League Baseball in batting average, home runs and RBIs.
Sinkwich was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1943 NFL Draft, the 1944 NFL Most Valuable Player and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. His No. 21 was retired by the University of Georgia.
5. Garrison Hearst (1990-92)
Statistics: 3,232 rushing yards, 546 receiving yards, 35 total touchdowns
From the moment this Lincoln County High School (GA) prospect arrived in Athens, Garrison Hearst was writing his legacy. After 315 carries his first two seasons, Hearst exploded for one of the greatest single seasons in Georgia football history.
Hearst rushed for 1,567 yards and a school-record 19 rushing touchdowns, which still stands today. That 1992 Bulldogs team went 10-2 with Hearst leading the charge and won the Citrus Bowl over Ohio State to end the season. Georgia’s superstar was named a consensus All-American and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting before having a 10-year career in the NFL.
4. Sony Michel (2014-17)
Statistics: 3,613 rushing yards, 621 receiving yards, 39 total touchdowns
It’s hard to shine when you’re sharing carries and are considered just one of your team’s two star running backs every season. That is, unless your name is Sony Michel.
The USA Today High School All-American split time with Nick Chubb (who you’ll meet in a minute), yet he still rushed for the third-most career yards in Georgia history. During the 2018 Rose Bowl, Michel only touched the football 15 times but racked up 222 total yards and four touchdowns on his way to earning Offensive MVP. Michel became a first-round pick of the New England Patriots and is now with the Los Angeles Rams. He’s on his way to a long, successful professional career.
3. Todd Gurley (2012-14)
Statistics: 3,285 rushing yards, 615 receiving yards, 42 total touchdowns
In three seasons in Athens, Todd Gerome Gurley absolutely blew the lid off of the Southeastern Conference. As a true freshman, Gurley overtook Ken Malcome as the team’s starting running back in the second game of the year, then ran for 1,385 yards (seventh-most in a single season) and 17 touchdowns (third-most in a season) as the Dawgs finished 12-2 and won the Capital One Bowl in 2012.
The next year, Gurley appeared in just 10 games, but he still ran for 989 yards and scored 16 total touchdowns as a sophomore. Gurley was slapped with a four-game suspension as a junior after receiving money for signed memorabilia then tore his ACL against Auburn in his first game back. His Georgia career ended early, but Gurley’s dominance carried him into the start of an incredible NFL career with the Los Angeles Rams. He played the 2020 season back home with the Atlanta Falcons.
2. Nick Chubb (2014-17)
Statistics: 4,769 rushing yards, 361 receiving yards, 48 total touchdowns
You could have seen Nick Chubb’s dominance coming a mile away after he rushed for 102 touchdowns for Cedartown High School in Georgia, but what he managed to do in four seasons as a Bulldog is nothing short of incredible.
After 1,760 total yards and 16 total touchdowns as a freshman, a severe knee injury cut his sophomore season after just six games. Chubb returned to form in 2016 with another 1,000-yard season, then exploded for 1,345 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, all while sharing time with teammate Sony Michel.
Chubb left college football with the second-most rushing yards in SEC and Georgia football history, but that’s because the one man who is the gold standard of every running back to ever play also happens to be a Georgia Bulldog.
1. Herschel Walker (1980-82)
Statistics: 5,259 rushing yards, 243 receiving yards, 52 total touchdowns
I mean, are you really surprised? Herschel Walker is one of the greatest running backs of all-time in both Georgia and SEC history, and there’s no case you can make for anyone to challenge him.
In three seasons, Walker finished third place or higher for the Heisman Trophy every year — the only player to accomplish that — until he finally won the award in 1982. The three-time SEC Player of the year, three-time consensus All-American and three-time First-Team All-SEC selection also won a National Championship as a freshman in 1980. You can watch him run all day long, but you better not look away because there’s never going to be another Herschel Walker.
Willie McClendon (1976-78)
Thomas Brown (2004-07)
Glynn Harrison (1973-75)
Kregg Lumpkin (2003-07)
Keith Marshall (2012-15)
Musa Smith (2000-02)
This post was originally published on January 29, 2019, but has been updated.