Top 10 Best Football Fullbacks Of All Time

The top 10 best football fullbacks of all time can be difficult to judge because the position as changed so much overtime. Decades ago, fullbacks received a heavy workload in the running game, whereas today they are used primarily to block. Taking this into account, here are the most well-rounded and “complete” top 10 best football fullbacks of all time.

  1. Jim Brown (Cleveland Browns). Brown played as though a man among boys and retired at his peak 1965 as the NFL’s all-time rushing leader. To this day his name tops most record books and his 104.3 yards per game remains unbested.  Not only is he the best of the top 10 best football fullbacks of all time, he is wide regarded as the best football player ever.   

  2. Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers). At 6-2, 230 pounds, Harris had a combination of size and speed that allowed him to anchor the offense of the 1970’s “Team of the Decade” that won four Super Bowls, for one of which he was named MVP. Harris scored a touchdown in the most famous football play of all time, the “Immaculate Reception.”

  3. Bronko Nagurski (Chicago Bears). A guy named “Bronko” and who played in the 1930’s at nearly 230 pounds was bound to make the Hall of Fame and be one of the top 10 best football fullbacks of all time. In addition he was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. To say this guy was a man is an understatement – his 19 ½ size championship ring was the largest ever measured.

  4. Larry Csonka (Miami Dolphins). This bruising back had three straight 1000-yard seasons for the Dolphins in the early 1970’s and was the key component of a team that won back-to-back Super Bowls and finished the 1972 season undefeated.

  5. John Riggins (two teams). “Riggo” primarily made his name later in his career with the Redskins and is viewed by many as one of the best short-yardage runners in history. This 230-pound bruiser’s touchdown run on 4th-and-inches in Super Bowl XVII has become an iconic image.

  6. Marion Motley (Cleveland Browns). Motley played in the 40s and 50s and at 232 pounds he was one of the largest men on the field every time he put on a helmet. Also a star linebacker, Motley’s bruising runs and imposing physicality helped him allowed him to toss tacklers aside on his way to the Hall of Fame.

  7. John Henry Johnson (three teams). Playing in the 50’s and 60’s, Johnson was big for his time at 210 pounds, and also possessed swift feet. When he retired at the end of his Hall-of-Fame-career, he was the fourth-leading rusher in league history.

  8. Mike Alstott (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Alstott played at almost 250 pounds and his rugged, straight-ahead style combined with solid blocking, took him to six Pro Bowls. He is one of the few fullbacks to play since the 1990’s as a featured runner.

  9. Cookie Gilchrist (three teams). Gilchrist made his mark with Buffalo Bills in the American Football League (AFL), topping the scales at 250+ pounds. He led the league in two of his four full seasons. Despite limited playing due to age and injury, he was named the fullback on the AFL’s all-time team and given consideration as one of the top 10 best football fullbacks of all time.

  10. Lorenzo Neal (seven teams). Neal is the only pure blocker on this list, but block he did. He makes the list of top 10 best football fullbacks of all time because he led the way for the back for whom he was blocking to rush for 1000 yards in eleven straight years, over the 1997 to 2007 seasons. He was selected all-pro three times.

 Resources:

"America's Game"; Michael MacCambridge; Anchor; 2005.