When people think of the greatest running back tandems in the NFL now-a-days, most answers are based on a two back by committee biases.
Not many people under 30 years old remember the days of teams having a halfback and fullback on the field at the same time.
Throughout the NFLs history, many teams carried a deep backfield with a halfback and fullback, with both receiving carries each game. A halfback was typically a smaller, shiftier back, as a fullback is a more stronger, physical runner.
The game of football is a faster paced now as you see more Quarterbacks setting records and posting insane numbers of four to five thousand passing yards every year.
Throwing the ball has been the way teams have been winning games and setting records in the recent years.
Guys like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees consistently make people forget the old way of football.
The first football game was played on November 6, 1869 between Rutgers University and Princeton. American football has changed a lot since those days.
Football rules then were more comparable to what we call rugby. Even in the earlier day of American football teams ran the ball more than they passed.
The gameplan was pretty simple in early days of football… have the better running game. In 1957 the Cleveland Browns put a guy named James Nathaniel Brown on the field.
Over the next nine years he would display some of the best athletic ability ever seen in pro sports, period.
Mr. Brown lead the Browns to winning seasons throughout his career, winning the NFL Championship in 1964, beating the then Baltimore Colts.
I would like to think that any man or woman whom have a love for pro football knows the name Jim Brown even today.
During the early days of Jim Browns NFL career there was a young man playing Jim Browns old postion at his Alma Matter of Syracuse, a man by the name of Ernie Davis.
The man nicknamed “The Elmira Express” was dazzling colleges with a blend of size and speed that made Davis a very tantalizing player.
Ernie Davis led his Syracuse Orangemen to the 1959 Natinal Champioship, beating the Texas Longhorns.
Ernie Davis was the first black athlete to win the Heisman Trophy following his senior season in 1961.
During his time in college he cemented himself as amazing player , earning himself a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Following his college football career Ernie Davis went number one in the 1962 Draft to the Washington Redskins.
But Ernie Davis refused to play for the Redskins, citing the redskins racist owners refusal to have Black athletes on his team, to appease southern fans.
The Redskins then struck a deal with the Cleveland Browns sending the rights to Davis to the browns in exchange for Runningback Bobby Mitchell and Draft pick Leroy Jackson.
This meant the Cleveland Browns would potentially have one of the greatest backfield in the NFL.
Sadly the dream never came to fruition as Davis was diagnosed with leukemia before playing a down in the NFL. Davis died tragically May 18 , 1963 later they had his number 44 retired. Davis never took the field but the impact he left in college had football fans dreaming of the pairing of Davis and his idol Jim Brown.
The football world will never know what the tendem could have been but looking at Davis and Browns college career stats gives us an idea as to the potential Davis had at the next level:
Jim Brown had 361 Rushing Attempts for 2,091 Yards, a 5.8 rushing average for 19 touchdowns.
Ernie Davis had 360 attempts for 2,386 yards, a 6.6 average, with 20 touchdowns. Both Jim Brown and Ernie Davis played only three years at Syracuse.
When ever a fan thinks of the greatest rushing backfields, there are certain names that come to mind. Mercury Morris and Larry Csonka for the Dolphins, Ernest Byner and Kevin Mack for the Browns, Warrick Dunn and Micheal Vick for the Falcons, DeAngelo Wiliams and Johnathon Stewart for the Panthers.
Even with those great ones throughout history and even with the new one with the Saints Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram , one has to wonder, would Ernie Davis and Jim Brown have suprassed them all?
For more information on the life of Ernie Davis there are books and even a movie, The Express, that shows him as a person and football player.