Okay, here is Grandpa's list of best running backs (and I’ve seen in person every player in the record book since 1964, except for the years 1987-1989, when I was on a "deep cover" assignment, and "out of the area," so to speak). I have evaluated the talent (1) pre-Snyder era and (2) post 1989. I have tried to evaluate the pre-Snyder talent within a prism of how would that player have fared playing within the Snyder system, and with good surrounding talent on the O-line, circa 1993-2003. Remember, the pre-Snyder guys didn’t boost their stats on cupcakes like Akron and W. Ky, and La.Monroe. In those days KSU was everyone else’s cupcake.
I offer few comments on the players from 1989 on because most posters here have a good idea of that talent, but my vote for second best (after Sproles) is a player from the pre-Snyder era, and I’ll offer reasons why I think he ranks second best of all time.1). Mack Herron (2 seasons, 1968, 1969). Mack played mostly out of the slot-back position, but he would line up in a deep I formation on occasion. He was 5'5' but weighed at least 210 pounds. As fast as Sproles, but POWERFUL. He is 5th on the all time total career all purpose yards. He is 1st in career all purpose yards average. He has the 3rd best single game all purpose yards (Sproles has the first and second best in that category). He led the 1969 team with 52 receptions. These are just a few of his highlights from the record book. Now, Mack came from the mean streets of Chicago. I am not talking out of school when I say he had, shall we say, some character problems. Those are historically documented in the press. He played a few years for the Patriots and he made a living for awhile playing Canadian Pro football. If (a big if) a Coach like Snyder could have straightened him out, he would have shattered every record imaginable. There is no doubt in my mind that he was the most physically gifted player to ever strap on a Wildcat helmet. Now, a disclosure, so you can judge whether my ranking is clouded by the following: When I was a 9th grader, my buddies and I would go to Ahearn on Saturdays and wait our turn for the challenge basketball games (you know, where all the old guys play b/ball at lunch now - I played some mean ball back then). Shirts and skins, you win, you keep the court - you know the drill. It’s OUR turn. I weigh maybe 130 pounds and I’m 5'9". I’m guarding MACK frickin HERRON. He’s 5'5 and he can dunk the ball - and he did - a lot!!!!. But I stole the ball from him ONCE ... no kiddin! Stripped HIM! But we did not hold the court. (And as a teaser, I’m working on a color piece about Ahearn in the 1960s - and yes - it will delve into those pesky facility SECURITY issues we’ve touched on before in these posts).
2. Cornelius Davis (3 seasons, 1966, 67, 68). Think Daniel Thomas. Same build and running style (but his spin move probably was not as good as D Train’s) Cornelius played on some of K-State’s worst teams. His sophomore year (66) KSU was 0-9-1. Vince Gibson came the next year. Davis was K-State’s first 1,000 yard in a season rusher. He still ranks 9th in total rushing yards. He had six 100 yard rushing games in 1966. Still ranks 20th in all purpose yards. Played for a few years in the pros. Great character guy. Now, if Snyder had this guy for three years, he’d rank in the top three for total rushing yards. A great running back.
3). Isaac Jackson (three seasons, 1971,72, 73) A lot like Josh Scobey. About 5-10, fast, shifty, and powerful. Still ranks 6th on all time rushing list and 6th on all purpose yards list. A lot like Tyrell Davis, who played for the Broncos. Snyder would have loved this guy.
Now, a further disclosure. Earlier I stated that I had "seen" all of the players in the record book who have played since 1964. And this is true. Technically. But starting around 1978, in the depths of the Ellis Rainsberger coaching era, and until Snyder came in 1989 (and we’ve dealt with ‘87 and ‘88) my pre-game routine involved going to Aggieville for breakfast. Bloody Marys - extra celery. And because I don’t like to drink on an empty stomach, I was eating quaaludes - by the fistful - and in addition to their nutritional benefit, the sedation was helpful - no absolutely necessary - in light of what was sure to come in those days at KSU Stadium. So, I’m sorry, but while there were some fine running backs from about 1978-1989, the haze from those days simply has not lifted - I can’t help.
So here’s my list:
1. Darren Sproles (I simply feel privileged to have seen him play; a blessing really).
2. Mack Herron
3. Josh Scobey
4. Cornelius Davis
5. Daniel Thomas