Oldest Running Backs in NFL

8 Oldest Running Backs in NFL

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A running back is one of the key players in football. Members of the offensive backfield, these players play a big role in the strategy and execution of every game. They may be referred to as halfback, tailback, wingback, or fullback.

Being a running back in the NFL is definitely proof of skill and amazing physical ability. These players have some of the most stellar careers in football, and although the job is extremely taxing, they are rewarded adequately. Many NFL players have net worths reaching into the millions of dollars.

Although a career in football is rewarding, it’s often short. NFL running backs have an average age of 28.5, meaning a lot of them retire in their late 20s or early 30s. In fact, most players don’t spend more than 3 years playing in the NFL.

Do you want to know who are the oldest running backs in NFL? Read on below to learn more about these football legends!

8. Franco Harris

Current age: 71 years
Age when retiring: 34
Years in the NFL: 1972-1984
Current team: Retired

Franco Harrisphoto source: post-gazette.com

Franco Harris is a football player who had a highly successful career in the NFL as a fullback. He retired at 34, making him one of the oldest fullbacks in the NFL.

Harris started his professional football run by playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He stayed loyal to the Steelers for over 10 seasons, spanning the years of 1972-1983.

He then signed with the Seattle Seahawks for the 1984 season, after which he retired.

Did you know?

After his retirement, he and his college teammate Lydell Mitchell started their own company called Super Bakery. The company was founded in 1990. Super Bakery’s mission is to provide nutrition-oriented meals and products to school children around the country.


7. John Riggins

Current age: 72 years
Age when retiring: 36
Years in the NFL: 1971-1985
Current team: Retired

John Rigginsphoto source: nbcsports.com

John Riggins is a retired professional football player and an ex-fullback. He continued to play until the age of 36, making him one of the oldest running backs in the NFL.

He was first selected in the NFL Draft in 1971. The team that picked him was the New York Jets. His run with the Jets was a successful one, earning him the Jets’ MVP award (now known as the Martin Award) in both 1972 and 1975 seasons.

After leaving the Jets, Riggins signed as a free agent with Washington Redskins on a much more profitable contract. He eventually retired in 1985 at the age of 36. He pursued acting and commentating to varying degrees during his retirement.

Did you know?

Although he joined the Washington Redskins in 1975 and then eventually retired in 1985, he had a brief departure from football during that time. Riggins tried to renegotiate his contract and the Redskins refused to do so. He made the choice to leave the training camp and ended up on the camp-retired list, which meant that he was ineligible to play for any other team in the NFL.

He eventually returned to the Redskins in 1981 and stayed with them until his retirement.


6. Adrian Peterson

Current age: 36 years
Age when retiring: n/a
Years in the NFL: 2007-ongoing
Current team: Free agent

Adrian Petersonphoto source: wikipedia.org

Adrian Peterson is a running back with over thirteen years in the NFL. He is currently a free agent and the third oldest running back in the NFL, as well as the second oldest active running back.

His professional career started in 2007 when he decided to skip the last year of college and enter the NFL Draft. Peterson then signed with the Minnesota Vikings and stayed with the team until 2016, when the Vikings announced they would not be renewing his contract. This made him a free agent.

Since becoming a free agent, Adrian Peterson played with the New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, and Detroit Lions.

Did you know?

Despite tearing both his ACL and MCL in a single game during the 2011 season, Peterson returned to football shortly after at the start of the 2012 season. He was successful regardless of his previous injury. He ended the season with 2,097 rushing yards, which was just nine yards less than Eric Dickerson’s record in a single season.


5. Darren Sproles

Current age: 38 years
Age when retiring: 36 years
Years in the NFL: 2005-2019
Current team: Retired

Darren Sprolesphoto source: pinterest.com

Darren Sproles is a former NFL running back and one of the oldest running backs of all time.

His football career started in 2005 when he joined the San Diego Chargers, with which he stayed until the end of the 2010 season. Sproles then played with the New Orleans Saints for three seasons before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sproles stayed with the Eagles for a total of six seasons before retiring in 2019. He was 36 when he retired, making him one of the oldest running backs in the NFL.

He enjoyed a highly successful career that spanned almost fourteen years, much longer than many other NFL players. Darren Sproles still works with the Philadelphia Eagles as a personnel consultant.

Did you know?

Darren Sproles is not very tall for a football player, and yet, he has proven himself successful over and over. Measuring at 5-foot-6, he holds multiple NFL records. Some of those records include a sixth place for combined punt and kick returns, behind Devin Hester, Brian Mitchell, Eric Metcalf, Josh Cribbs, and Dante Hall.

Sproles also used to have a bad stutter that he had consistently worked on throughout his career. He now supports the Stuttering Foundation.


4. John Henry Johnson

Current age: Passed away at the age of 81
Age when retiring: 37
Years in the NFL: 1953-1966
Current team: n/a

John Henry Johnsonphoto source: stmarys-ca.edu

John Henry Johnson was a running back playing in the NFL. He is amongst the legends of football, and during his career, he was admired for his skills as a fullback — both as a runner and a blocker.

His career started out in Canada when he played in the Western Interprovincial Football Union for just one season with the Calgary Stampeders. He then moved to play in NFL teams in the United States.

Johnson played for the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, and Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL. He finished his career with the Houston Oilers and retired at the age of 37.

John Henry Johnson passed away at the age of 81 in Tracy, California.

Did you know?

Johnson was described as “the perfect NFL fullback” due to his proficiency in both blocking and running. Jim Brown even called Johnson “the greatest running back he had ever seen”.

He was equally praised for his playstyle as a blocker. Johnson was proud of his abilities, saying “It gave me a chance to hit all those people who hit me all the time.”


3. Frank Gore

Current age: 38 years
Age when retiring: n/a
Years in the NFL: 2005-ongoing
Current team: Free agent

Frank Gorephoto source: touchdownwire.usatoday.com

Frank Gore is one of the oldest active running backs in the NFL. He is a Miami football legend with a career spanning over 20 years.

His career started in college in the 2001 season, but his professional career dates back to 2005. Gore spent the majority of his career working for the San Francisco 49ers. In 2015, he switched to Indianapolis Colts and stayed with them for three seasons.

Since parting ways with Indianapolis Colts, Frank Gore has been a free agent in the NFL. He spent the 2018 season playing for Miami Dolphins, then moved on to Buffalo Bills in 2019, finally signing a one-year contract with the New York Jets in 2020.

During his NFL career, Frank Gore rushed for exactly 16,000 yards. That puts him in third place on the NFL rushing yards lists. His fellow top-three Hall of Famers are Emmett Smith, who rushed for a total of 18,355 yards, and Walter Payton with 16,726 yards.

Did you know?

Frank Gore holds several other records. He holds the record for the most consecutive seasons with a minimum of 500 yards rushing, at sixteen seasons. He also has the most (twelve) seasons with 1,200 yards from scrimmage.

Most importantly, Frank Gore has the most games played in NFL by a running back (241).


2. Lorenzo Neal

Current age: 50
Age when retiring: 39
Years in the NFL: 16
Current team: Retired

Lorenzo Nealphoto source: sacramento.cbslocal.com

Lorenzo LaVonne Neal is a retired professional fullback whose career covered a whopping sixteen seasons in the NFL. Having retired in 2008, Neal now hosts an NFL-centric podcast in 2013 that he continues to run to this day.

Neal’s career started all the way back in 1993 when he joined the New Orleans Saints. After three seasons with the Saints, he moved on to play with another team.

During the course of his career, he played for a total of eight teams: New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, and Oakland Raiders.

Did you know?

Lorenzo Neal and his wife Deanna have had three children: a son, Lorenzo, and twin daughters, Nylya and Mia. Neal’s son Lorenzo is followed in his father’s footsteps and is currently a member of the New Orleans Saints.


1. Jim Thorpe

Current age: Passed away at age 65
Age when retiring: 49
Years in the NFL: 8
Current team: n/a

Jim Thorpephoto source: wikipedia.org

Jim Thorpe was the oldest running back in the NFL of all time. He is also one of the greatest legends in the history of football, and enjoyed a long career in the NFL.

Thorpe was a professional athlete and Olympic gold medalist first, and a running back second. Aside from football, he also played baseball with teams such as the New York Giants.

His football career started in 1913 with the Pine Village Pros. Thorpe then played with the Canton Bulldogs. He never played for an NFL championship team, but he still played 52 NFL games for six different teams during a career that spanned from 1920 to 1928.

Jim Thorpe retired from professional football at age 41. He passed away in 1953 at the age of 65.

Did you know?

Jim Thorpe was dubbed the Greatest Athlete of the first 50 years of the 20th century by the Associated Press. He was also in the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame back in 1963.


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