Tommie Frazier headlined our quarterback selection to the SB Nation College Football Hall of Fame. Today it gets harder, as we need to choose a running back. Given the number of great college running backs Nebraska has produced over the years combined with a powerful, unstoppable, crushing, imposing, diabolical rushing attack, you'd have thought the Cornhusker program would have produced more than one Heisman winning running back, but no, that is not the case.
This selection presents a challenge in that it asks the question - are we picking the best Cornhusker running back, or are we picking the one that has the greatest chance of being selected to a Hall of Fame?
Rozier is Nebraska's only Heisman Trophy winning running back, winning the award in 1983. He was part of the "Scoring Explosion" backfield along with teammates quarterback Turner Gill and receiver Irving Fryar. Rozier also won the Walter Camp and Maxwell Awards in 1983, and was an All-American in both 1982 and 1983.
Rozier was fun to watch. He was physical when it was needed, had great vision, but most of all had speed that left opposing players behind. It was rare that he was caught from behind, and he was nasty quick through holes.
Rozier maintains his hold on the career rushing record at Nebraska, with 4,780 yards. In 1983, he set a single-season rushing record that still stands with 2,148 yards. He holds records for most 100-yard games (26), most 200-yard games (7), career rushing attempts (668), and yards per attempt (7.16, 1983).
Another item to remember about Rozier. Roger Craig was the starting running back when Rozier was a sophomore. By the next year, 1982, he had beat out Craig for the starting I-back position and Craig moved to fullback.
Green falls to second behind Rozier, but has better name recognition because of his years in the NFL. Green didn't win a Heisman, and didn't set a lot of records, although he probably would have broken Rozier's career rushing record if he had stuck around for his senior year rather than turning pro (Green had 3,880 career rushing yards), but he won two national championships, something that Rozier didn't do as Osborne chose to go for two.
Green ends up second to Rozier in 100 yard games (20), although he continues to hold the record for the most yards by a freshman running back (1,086 yards, 1995), by a junior running back (1,877 yards, 1997), both coming during national championship seasons.
Jeff Kinney, Calvin Jones, I.M. Hipp, Jarvis Redwine - all great running backs at Nebraska. Note that they're all from the Tom Osborne era. You could argue that since Osborne's retirement that the Huskers have lost their way in their ability to produce a truly solid rushing attack. Other than Roy Helu Jr. setting the single game rushing record against Missouri in 2010 (307 yards), Nebraska's record books are filled with names of players before the year 2000.
In the top ten in single season rushing yards, the latest player is Jammal Lord at #6 with 1,412 yards in 2002. In single game rushing, you obviously have Helu at the top, and Taylor Martinez graces the top ten list at #9 with his 241 yards against Kansas State. In career rushing, Helu makes the list at #4, and Cory Ross (2002-2005) comes in at #10.
Keep in mind that the teams are playing more games than ever before, and you ought to find the lack of record-setting a little disturbing. Now go look at the list of national championship winners and ask yourself how many of those teams got there by being great passing teams.
Okay, I digressed. The point remains, however. And honestly, when I started looking at this, I thought an argument could be made that another running back besides Rozier deserved consideration. Perhaps Green does, but it's that missing senior year that keeps his college career from being one of the greatest to being THE greatest. If you happen to disagree, I'd love to hear about it.