#5 John L. Williams (1982-1985)
Number 22 might be associated with Emmitt Smith, but before Emmitt there was John L. Williams. Forming a dynamic duo in the Gator backfield with teammate Neal Anderson (who appears later in this list), Williams ran for 14 touchdowns and 2,409 rushing yards in his Gator career. He helped lead Florida to a Gator Bowl victory in 1983 and was a part of two 9-1-1 squads.
Some accolades he earned while playing for UF include:
- Second-team All-SEC in 1984 and 1985
- Honorable mention All-American in 1985
- UF Hall of Fame inductee in 1997
#4 Neal Anderson (1982-1985)
The complement to Williams as I mentioned above, Neal Anderson carried the bulk of the work between the two backs. As a Gator, Anderson ran for 30 touchdowns and 3,234 yards. As these stats clearly indicate, he played a big role in both the Gators' 9-1-1 seasons as a junior and a senior in 1984 and 1985. He also was a member of that 1983 squad that won the Gator Bowl. I figured this was obvious because he played the exact same years as Williams.
While running for 16 more touchdowns and approximately 800 more yards than Williams, it is safe to assume that Anderson garnered some awards during his years at Florida. Some of these accolades include:
- Honorable mention All-American in 1984 and 1985
- First Team All-SEC in 1985
- UF Hall of Fame inductee in 1995
In the 1986 NFL Draft, Anderson went 27th overall to the Chicago Bears. His career was shorter than Williams but productive as he went to four Pro Bowls in his seven year career.
#3 Fred Taylor (1994-1997)
Fred Taylor is the only running back on this list to win a National Championship as he was a member of the 12-1 Gator team that won it all in 1996. Taylor was at UF right in the middle of the program's golden years and helped lead the Gators to bowl victories in the 1997 Sugar Bowl (the National Championship) and the 1998 Citrus Bowl. He provided a great running game to aid an already loaded offense with quarterback Danny Wuerffel.
Taylor finished his collegiate career with 31 rushing touchdowns and 3,075 rushing yards. Besides winning a National Championship, Taylor earned some other honors that include:
- SEC Champion in 1994, 1995, and 1996
- First Team All-SEC in 1997
- Third Team All-American in 1997
- UF Hall of Fame inductee in 2010
His son, Kelvin Taylor, is currently a sophomore at the University of Florida and plays running back as well. He wears #21 to honor his father.
#2 Errict Rhett (1989-1993)
The predecessor to Fred Taylor, Errict Rhett was nothing short of a stud during his time at the University of Florida. He cashed in 34 touchdowns on the ground and has the most rushing yards on this list with 4,163.
He led the Gators to victory in a fog-clouded Gator Bowl in 1992 and capped off his Gator career with a three touchdown performance in the 1994 Sugar Bowl his senior year. Rhett's performance in the Sugar Bowl would be enough to earn him the game's MVP honors.
Behind Rhett's legs, the Gators posted a 10-2 record in 1991 and an 11-2 record in 1993. He did most of his damage during his sophomore and senior years while regressing a tad during his junior year. His efforts overall would not go unrewarded as Rhett was able to claim a few honors during his Gator years. These awards include:
- SEC Champion in 1991 and 1993
- First Team All-SEC in 1991 and 1993
- First Team All-American in 1993
- UF Hall of Fame inductee in 2006
Rhett is the only player on this list to not go in the first round as he was drafted 34th in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To put that into perspective, he was the second pick of the second round which by no means is bad. Rhett only played in the NFL for six years and ended his career with the Cleveland Browns in 2000.
Landing the top spot on my list is no other than Emmitt Smith. Taking over in between the Williams/Anderson and Rhett eras, Emmitt was a force to be reckoned with. In just three years as a Gator, he tallied the most rushing touchdowns on this list with 36 along with 3,928 rushing yards. Had Emmitt stayed for his senior year, he easily would have had the most rushing yards on this list and cracked over 40 rushing touchdowns.
Emmitt played on mediocre Gator teams throughout his collegiate career and was able to notch just one bowl victory in the form of the 1988 All-American Bowl. Regardless, the team's record and bowl performances cast a very minuscule shadow on Emmitt's individual performances. Some of his awards and honors include:
- MVP of 1988 All-American Bowl
- First Team All-SEC in 1987, 1988, and 1989
- All-American in 1989
- SEC MVP in 1989
- College Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2006
- Inducted into the UF Ring of Honor in 2006 (with Steve Spurrier & Danny Wuerffel)
- UF Hall of Fame inductee in 1999
Emmitt was drafted 17th overall in the 1990 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys and went on to have a phenomenal 14 year career. In the NFL, Emmitt won three Super Bowl titles, a Super Bowl MVP, made eight Pro Bowls, and currently holds the career records for rushing yards (18,355) and rushing touchdowns (164). He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2010.
Arguably one of the best running backs to ever play the game, I am proud to say that Emmitt Smith was and will forever be a Florida Gator!
Honorable Mention: DeShawn Wynn (2003-2006), Chris Rainey (2007-2011), Jeff Demps (2008-2011), Mike Gillislee (2009-2012)
I hope you enjoyed this Top 5 article! In my next article in this series, I will be skipping the worst five running backs and moving on to the top five wide receivers to ever don a Gator uniform. Until then, stay tuned for my upcoming article on the Florida/Georgia game that will be taking place tomorrow, November 1, at 3:30 p.m.
*All stats accredited to Gatorzone.com, College Football @ Sports-Reference.com, & Wikipedia.com