Record-setting running back O.J. Simpson: 1947-2024

Hall of Famers Published on : 4/11/2024

O.J. Simpson, the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in an NFL season, died April 10, 2024, of cancer, according to his family.O.J. SIMPSON, the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in an NFL season, died April 10, 2024, of cancer, according to his family.

He was 76.

Simpson’s diagnosis of prostate cancer was made public about two months ago, and he had received chemotherapy treatment.

After attending City College of San Francisco in his hometown, Simpson moved onto the University of Southern California. He twice was named to the All-America team and won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player in 1968.

The Buffalo Bills selected Simpson with the overall No. 1 choice in the 1969 AFL/NFL Draft, but he was not an immediate success in the National Football League. It wasn’t until his fourth season and a coaching change that he surpassed 1,000 yards, leading the league with 1,251 in 1972 and setting the stage for his most famous season.

In 1973, Simpson ran for 2,003 yards, getting the final 200 on 34 carries on a blustery, season-ending day at Shea Stadium against the New York Jets. He broke JIM BROWN'S single-season rushing record (1,863 yards) that had stood for a decade, and his 143.1 rushing yards per game that season remains the highest mark in league history.

He was named the league MVP by all of the top media outlets and also won the Bert Bell Award.

Simpson ran for more than 1,000 yards each of the next three seasons, leading the league two more times. His 7,699 rushing yards during that five-year span (1972-76) led the NFL by some distance, with no other player coming within 2,500 yards.

His numbers fell off dramatically in 1977, however. He then left Buffalo for San Francisco and gained just over 1,000 yards in his two seasons (1978-79) combined with the 49ers before retiring and beginning a second career in acting and broadcasting.

Ending his pro career with 11,236 rushing yards, 2,142 receiving yards and 990 kick return yards, Simpson totaled 14,368 all-purpose yards in 135 games. He scored 76 total touchdowns (61 rushing, 14 receiving and one via kick return).

Simpson was selected to play in six Pro Bowls (1969, 1972-76) and was a first-team All-Pro selection five times (1972-76). He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1970s, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL 100 All-Time Team.

He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, his first year of eligibility.

“O.J. Simpson was the first player to reach a rushing mark many thought could not be attained in a 14-game season when he topped 2,000 yards,” said Jim Porter, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “His on-field contributions will be preserved in the Hall’s archives in Canton, Ohio.”