Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles had 10 rushing yards, 22 receiving yards, and 29 punt return yards in Thursday night’s 18-12 victory against the Atlanta Falcons. That yardage was enough for the former Kansas State Wildcats star to climb from eighth to sixth on the NFL career all-purpose yards leaderboard.
Sproles began the night with 19,155 career yards. Over the course of the game, he passed Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens star Steve Smith (19,180 yards), who retired after the 2016 season. Then, with about five minutes left in the game and the Eagles trailing 12-10, Sproles returned a punt for 12 yards, passing Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (19,190 yards) on the play.
The return, as well as a facemask penalty, gave the Eagles good field position. On the ensuing drive, Sproles picked up a 3rd and 8 conversion with 9 yards, and the Eagles later cashed in on the drive with an 11-yard touchdown by Jay Ajayi. Philadelphia’s defense held on by the skin of its teeth.
Sproles finished the game with 61 all-purpose yards, increasing his career total to 19,216. The next (and if he gets there, likely final) rung on the ladder for Sproles is Raiders legend Tim Brown (19,682 yards). Sproles needs 467 more yards to pass Brown. Beyond Brown, it’s almost 2,000 more yards to catch Emmitt Smith (21,564 yards), and Sproles hasn’t had 2,000 yards in a season since losing his spot as the New Orleans Saints primary kick returner in 2012. The 35 year old from Olathe, Kan., announced in July he would retire after this season. His 2017 season was cut short by multiple injuries on the same play. Hopefully he can stay healthy this season and retire on his terms.
In four seasons at K-State, from 2001 to 2004, Sproles racked up 6,812 all-purpose yards, including 346 yards as a junior in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game over the No. 1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. The San Diego Chargers drafted Sproles with the 130th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He played for the Chargers for 5 years, the Saints for 3 years (including breaking the NFL single season all-purpose yard record in 2011 with 2,696 yards), and is in his 5th season with the Eagles.