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Sproles climbs into all-time all-purpose top 5

K-State great passed Tim Brown on Sunday.

NFL: New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Former K-State running back and current Philadelphia Eagles player Darren Sproles reached another career milestone Sunday as he climbed into fifth place on the NFL’s career all-purpose yards chart.

Sproles entered the game in sixth place, 30 yards behind Hall-of-Famer Tim Brown on the leaderboard, passing Brown with 4 rushing yards and 28 punt return yards against the New York Jets. The day brought him to 19,684 career all-purpose yards, or about 11.18 miles.

Sproles’ career total includes 8,352 kick return yards, 4,837 receiving yards, 3,545 rushing yards, and 2,959 punt return yards across stints with the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, and the Philadelphia Eagles. He also has 64 career touchdowns in the NFL and holds the record for all-purpose yards in a season with 2,696 yards for the Saints in 2011.

The Olathe-raised Sproles trails only hall-of-famers Jerry Rice (23,456 yards), Walter Payton (21,803), and Emmitt Smith (21,564) and career return specialist Brian Mitchell (23,330) on the leaderboard. The nearly 2,000-yard gap between Sproles and Smith makes it unlikely the 36-year-old will climb any higher in the ranks, but eclipsing 20,000 career yards isn’t out of the question.

Sproles may have an uphill climb for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on how many of his yards came in the return game (although he saw considerably more use as a rusher and receiver than Mitchell did). One factor that could work in Sproles’ favor is the respect he has from former teammates. Saints Quarterback Drew Brew (who also was teammates with Sproles in San Diego in 2005) continued to praise Sproles well after the Saints traded Sproles to the Eagles for a draft pick.

“Unfortunately I had to say this when we were trading him away to Philly, but he is really a once-in-a-lifetime player in regards to what, he is a game-changing guy,” Brees told ESPN before the 2017 Pro Bowl. “He makes everyone around him better. He is a quiet guy, but a guy that everyone wants to emulate and be like because he’s such a great teammate.”

At K-State from 2001 to 2004, Sproles piled up 4,979 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns, 609 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, 378 punt return yards and 1 touchdown, and 846 kick return yards. He was one of the brightest stars of the 2003 Big 12 Championship team, going for 235 rushing yards, 88 receiving yards, and 22 return yards with a receiving touchdown in a 35-7 rout of Oklahoma. He was selected 130th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers.