O. J. Simpson, a two-time All-America from the University of Southern California and the 1968 Heisman Trophy winner, was one of history's most heralded rookies when the Buffalo Bills selected him as the No. 1 player in the entire 1969 draft.
His career record for 11 seasons, the first nine in Buffalo and the 1978 and 1979 campaigns in San Francisco, confirms the rave notices were well founded. He rushed for 11,236 yards, added 2,142 yards on 203 pass receptions, returned 33 kickoffs 990 yards for a superb 30-yard average, and amassed 14,368 combined net yards. He scored 456 points on 76 touchdowns.
O. J. was not an immediate success and, in fact, did not even win Rookie of the Year acclaim in 1969. Incredibly, he was used sparingly as a running back through his first three campaigns until Lou Saban took over the reins in 1972 and immediately decided to give the 6-1, 212-pound speedster the football as often as possible.
Simpson immediately responded with massive ground-gaining performances. O.J. may be best remembered for his sensational 1973 season when he became the first back in history to rush for over 2,000 yards. With 219 yards in the next-to-last game against New England and a 200-yard output in the finale with the New York Jets, Simpson totaled 2,003 yards, tops for a 14-game season.
Many say the 1975 season was even better - 1,817 yards rushing, 426 yards on receptions and a then-record 23 touchdowns. O.J. led the league in rushing four years in 1972, 1973, 1975 and 1976.
In various selections, he was named NFL Player of the Year in 1972, 1973 and 1975. He was both All-AFC and All-Pro five straight years from 1972 through 1976. He played in six Pro Bowls, winning Player of the Game honors in the 1973 game.