Smith’s firm hold on coveted record

History Published on : 8/1/2010

Arguably there are few records in sports more treasured than the one that Class of 2010 enshrinee Emmitt Smith owns. On Oct. 27, 2002, Smith surpassed Walter Payton’s career rushing total to become the game’s leading ground gainer.

By the time he finished his Hall of Fame career, Smith outdistanced “Sweetness” by more than 1,600 yards. As he takes his place in the Hall of Fame, Emmitt’s career rushing total looks to be a record that will stand the test of time for many, many seasons. The leading active rusher heading into the 2010 NFL Season is LaDainian Tomlinson of the New York Jets. “LT” needs to gain 5,866 yards to break Smith’s impressive total.

The following is a timeline of the holders of this coveted NFL record. The list starts in the 1930s when accurate compilation of NFL statistics starting taking place. Not surprisingly, the six runners who preceded Smith as the “NFL’s all-time leading rusher” all have been enshrined in Canton.

EmmittSmith (Photo: Associated Press)

EMMITT SMITH, Dallas Cowboys
Oct. 27, 2002
Smith surpassed the NFL career rushing total of Walter Payton when he ran through the left side of the line for an 11-yard gain in the fourth quarter of the Dallas Cowboys' 17-14 loss to the visiting Seattle Seahawks in Week 8. Smith finished that drive by scoring on a 1-yard run for his 150th career rushing TD. On the day, he carried the ball 24 times for 109 yards as he posted his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season. Smith finished the game with 3,929 career attempts for 16,743 yards. (Click here to view Smith's record run).

WALTER PAYTON, Chicago Bears
Oct. 7, 1984
Payton ran into the record book in the Bears' 20-7 win over the New Orleans Saints at Chicago's Soldier Field during the sixth week of the 1984 NFL season. Payton's record carry came on a 6-yard run 57 seconds into the second half as he topped Jim Brown's career record of 12,312 yards. Payton gained 154 yards on 32 carries and scored one touchdown on the day to finish the game with a career total of 12,400 yards. The future Hall of Famer continued to add to that mark over the next 3 1/2 seasons. By the time he retired after the 1987 season, he had amassed 16,726 rushing yards. (Click here to view Payton's record run).


JIM BROWN, Cleveland Browns
Oct. 20, 1963
Brown surpassed the NFL career rushing total of 8,378 yards set by Joe Perry. Brown set the new mark in the sixth week of the season in a game versus the Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. He established the new career record with an 8-yard carry in the second quarter. On the day, Brown rushed for 144 yards on 25 carries as Cleveland defeated Philadelphia, 27-7. His career total by game's end was 8,390 yards. He continued to add to that total for the next 1 1/2 seasons and retired with 12,312 yards. (Click here to view Brown's record run).


JOE PERRY, San Francisco 49ers
Oct. 5, 1958
While the Pro Football Hall of Fame includes Joe Perry's rushing yards from the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in its Top 20 Rushing Leaders, the stats from that league are not included in the NFL Record Book. Perry amassed 9,723 yards in his career including 8,378 during his seasons in the NFL. He established the NFL record during the second week of the 1958 season in a 33-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. Perry's record-setting moment came on a 4-yard jaunt early in the third quarter. He finished the day with 44 yards on 12 carries to bring his NFL career yardage to 5,697 yards, surpassing Steve Van Buren's career mark by 17 yards.

STEVE VAN BUREN, Philadelphia Eagles
Oct. 3, 1949
Steve Van Buren became the game's all-time leading rusher in the Eagles' 22-14 win over the Lions in Detroit. He gained 135 yards on 33 carries, and rushed for two touchdowns to finish the day with 3,951 career yards, surpassing themark set by Clarke Hinkle in 1941. Van Buren led the NFL in rushing four times and retired after the 1951 season with 5,860 yards and 69 TDs. He was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1965.


CLARKE HINKLE, Green Bay Packers
Hall of Famer Clarke Hinkle set the career rushing mark when he eclipsed Cliff Battles in the final season of his Hall of Fame career. He retired with 3,860 yards on 1,171 carries during his 10-year career with the Green Bay Packers from 1932-1941.


CLIFF BATTLES, Washington Redskins
Cliff Battles, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 1968, was the first player in NFL history to rush for 200 yards in a single game (215 yards on Oct. 8, 1933 vs. New York Giants). He began his football career with the Boston Braves in 1932. The team changed its nickname to Redskins in '33, and moved to Washington in 1937, Battles' final season. He led the NFL in rushing yards both his first and last season as a pro. In all, he totaled 3,511 yards on 839 carries and scored 23 touchdowns.