NFL

The 12 Longest Rushing Touchdowns in NFL History

With his monstrous 98-yard touchdown against the Panthers this past weekend, 23-year-old Bucs running back Ronald Jones II became just the 11th player in NFL history to top 95 yards with a single rush. There have 12 such rushes in total, meaning one player on this list managed this insane feat twice. 

To storm from one end zone all the way to the other is something truly awesome to behold, so to celebrate Jones’ accomplishment, I’ve compiled the complete list of every single player who’s busted out a run of 96+ yards. The initial plan was to make it a top ten list, but there’s actually a four-way tie for ninth place, which is why we begin with 96.

T-9th Place: Jim Spavital – November 5th, 1950 vs. Green Bay Packers (96 Yards)

Remarkably, Spavital only had 246 rushing yards for the entire 1950 season, but about 40% of them came in the form of one glorious touchdown run. He was an Airborne reservist, so when the call of duty came a year later in 1951, he left to serve in the Korean War.

Although he was drafted by the New York Giants in the first round in 1951, he never set foot on the playing field again; wear and tear on his feet made it impossible for him to be productive. Instead, he embarked on a coaching career that lasted 40 years between various leagues, including the CFL.

T-9th Place: Bob Horneschemeyer – November 23rd, 1950 vs. New York Yanks (96 Yards)

With his monstrous 98-yard touchdown against the Panthers this past weekend, 23-year-old Bucs running back Ronald Jones II became just the 11th player in NFL history to top 95 yards with a single rush. There have 12 such rushes in total, meaning one player on this list managed this insane feat twice. 

To storm from one end zone all the way to the other is something truly awesome to behold, so to celebrate Jones’ accomplishment, I’ve compiled the complete list of every single player who’s busted out a run of 96+ yards. The initial plan was to make it a top ten list, but there’s actually a four-way tie for ninth place, which is why we begin with 96.

T-9th Place: Jim Spavital – November 5th, 1950 vs. Green Bay Packers (96 Yards)

Remarkably, Spavital only had 246 rushing yards for the entire 1950 season, but about 40% of them came in the form of one glorious touchdown run. He was an Airborne reservist, so when the call of duty came a year later in 1951, he left to serve in the Korean War.

Although he was drafted by the New York Giants in the first round in 1951, he never set foot on the playing field again; wear and tear on his feet made it impossible for him to be productive. Instead, he embarked on a coaching career that lasted 40 years between various leagues, including the CFL.

T-9th Place: Bob Horneschemeyer – November 23rd, 1950 vs. New York Yanks (96 Yards)

No, you didn’t read that wrong. Horneschemeyer’s 96-yard run came against a short-lived pro football team named the New York Yanks, which is a spectacularly confusing thing to name your football team with the Yankees just across town.

Unlike Spavital, Horneschemeyer had a long and productive career with the Lions. He rushed for over 4,500 yards between 1946 and 1955, and even earned a pair of pro bowl selections in 1951 and 1952. In addition to his 96-yarder, he had at least three other runs in his career that topped 80 yards.

T-9th Place: Garrison Hearst – September 6th, 1998 vs. New York Jets (96 Yards)

Back when the Jets were actually capable of making games close, 49ers running back Garrison Hearst busted out a 96-yard run to clinch a game in overtime to clinch the season opener against New York. Then, of course, he was mobbed on the field.

Hearst missed the following two seasons to avascular necrosis, which is the death of bone tissue due to lack of blood supply (no, this had nothing to do with his monster rush). Remarkably, he recovered enough to have three more productive seasons, and another not-so productive season after which he finally retired.

T-9th Place: Corey Dillon – October 28th, 2001 vs. Detroit Lions (96 Yards)

Dillon had recently signed a five-year, $32MM contract with the Bengals in May of 2001, and although he was vocal about his frustrations with the team and its ownership, that didn’t stop him from putting up several monster performances over the course of the year.

His 96-yard mad dash was part of a three-touchdown performance in which the fifth-year professional rushed for a total of 184 yards. The game came during his third pro bowl season, and he’d go on to have a fourth one later after heading to New England to play for the Patriots.

T-5th Place: Andy Uram – October 8th, 1939 vs. Chicago Cardinals (97 Yards)

Uram was the first player in the NFL’s then-brief history to rush for 97 yards on a single play, setting a record that wouldn’t be broken until 1982 (though it was tied just ten years later). He set several other Packers records within the next few years, though all of them have been broken to date.

According to the Packers’ official website, Uram was known for his “snake-like hip action”, which made him one of the best rushers of his day. He joined the Navy during World War II, and although he attempted a comeback with the Packers in 1947, he never made it back onto an NFL field.

T-5th Place: Lamar Miller – December 27th, 2014 vs. New York Jets (97 Yards)

This touchdown was the result of an egregious hole in the Jets’ line, and Miller took full advantage by barreling through. After a 97-yard dash down the field, he gave his Dolphins a 24-14 lead in what would ultimately end up being a very close game.

The run shattered the record for the longest in Dolphins history, and gave Miami their fifth-straight win, though they were playing catch up at the time and ended the season at just 8-8. In total, Miller rushed for over a thousand yards that season and added another 275 receiving yards for good measure.

T-5th Place: Lamar Miller – November 26th, 2018 vs. Tennessee Titans

Miller made history on Monday Night Football by becoming the first player ever to rush for more than 93 yards on two separate occasions. The only other two players with 97 yards from scrimmage on a single play are both wide receivers, meaning Miller owns a killer novelty record.

2018 would prove to be Miller’s final year as a pro football player, but he went out with a bang by compiling 973 rushing yards, bringing his career total to nearly 6,000 in just seven years. It was also the first and only time he earned a Pro Bowl selection.

T-5th Place: Bob Gage – December 4th, 1949 vs. Chicago Bears

Gage’s 97-yard touchdown run was special for two reasons. The first is that he was just 21 years of age. In over 70 years since that day, no player younger than Gage has managed to rush for 90 yards or more on a single play. It’s still a franchise record for the Steelers.

The second thing that makes this play special is that it came on a fake punt. That means that he not only earned the Steelers 97 yards from scrimmage, but he actually started his run from ten yards behind scrimmage. I don’t guess often when I’m writing, but in this case I’d be willing to bet that 107 yards of running is a record in its own right.

T-3rd Place: Ronald Jones II – November 15th, 2020 vs. Carolina Panthers

At 23 years old, Jones became just the fourth player in history to break out a touchdown run of at least 98 yards. It’s the longest offensive play in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise, and helped the team to a 46-23 rout of the Panthers.

Jones reached a maximum rushing speed of 19.49 miles per hour according to ESPN. It came at perhaps the perfect time, serving as redemption for a fumble the third-year running back committed early on in the game that led to a Panthers touchdown.

T-3rd Place: Ahman Green – December 28th, 2003 vs. Denver Broncos

Green’s 98-yard touchdown run came in the Packers’ final game of the 2003 season. Not only did the play become the longest rushing play in Packers history, but Green’s 218 total rushing yards that day set a Packers’ franchise record as well. Both of those records still stand tall to this day.

Considering Green’s impressive 12-year career with over 9,000 total rushing yards, nobody would consider his 2003 run a fluke. But just to put an exclamation point on his statement to the league, Green broke out another titanic run the following season when he rushed for 90 yards against the Cowboys on October 24th, 2004.

T-1st Place: Tony Dorsett – January 3rd, 1983 vs. Minnesota Vikings

On Monday Night Football nearly 40 years ago, Dorsett set an NFL record by storming 99 yards from scrimmage for a touchdown. No other player was able to match that record for 35 years, until the next player on this list finally accomplished the same feat in 2018.

A former number two overall pick, Dorsett fully lived up to his pedigree over the course of his long career. In 11 years with the Dallas Cowboys (and one more with the Broncos), the hall of famer rushed for a grand total of 12,739 yards and added another 3,554 receiving for a total of over 16,000 offensive yards.

T-1st Place: Derrick Henry – December 6th, 2018 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Though it’s tied for the longest, there’s some debate surrounding whether this is truly one of the most impressive runs in NFL history. In my eyes, Henry’s brutal stiff-arming and manhandling of two unfortunate Jaguars defenders is a show of the Titan’s physical strength, but some skeptics simply look at it as two horribly botched tackling attempts.

Whatever you believe about that play, Henry’s young career is off to a great start. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection last year by rushing for a total of 1,540 yards, and has already amassed nearly 1,000 through just nine games in 2020. 

Back when the Jets were actually capable of making games close, 49ers running back Garrison Hearst busted out a 96-yard run to clinch a game in overtime to clinch the season opener against New York. Then, of course, he was mobbed on the field.

Hearst missed the following two seasons to avascular necrosis, which is the death of bone tissue due to lack of blood supply (no, this had nothing to do with his monster rush). Remarkably, he recovered enough to have three more productive seasons, and another not-so productive season after which he finally retired.

T-9th Place: Corey Dillon – October 28th, 2001 vs. Detroit Lions (96 Yards)

Dillon had recently signed a five-year, $32MM contract with the Bengals in May of 2001, and although he was vocal about his frustrations with the team and its ownership, that didn’t stop him from putting up several monster performances over the course of the year.

His 96-yard mad dash was part of a three-touchdown performance in which the fifth-year professional rushed for a total of 184 yards. The game came during his third pro bowl season, and he’d go on to have a fourth one later after heading to New England to play for the Patriots.

T-5th Place: Andy Uram – October 8th, 1939 vs. Chicago Cardinals (97 Yards)

Uram was the first player in the NFL’s then-brief history to rush for 97 yards on a single play, setting a record that wouldn’t be broken until 1982 (though it was tied just ten years later). He set several other Packers records within the next few years, though all of them have been broken to date.

According to the Packers’ official website, Uram was known for his “snake-like hip action”, which made him one of the best rushers of his day. He joined the Navy during World War II, and although he attempted a comeback with the Packers in 1947, he never made it back onto an NFL field.

T-5th Place: Lamar Miller – December 27th, 2014 vs. New York Jets (97 Yards)This touchdown was the result of an egregious hole in the Jets’ line, and Miller took full advantage by barreling through. After a 97-yard dash down the field, he gave his Dolphins a 24-14 lead in what would ultimately end up being a very close game.

The run shattered the record for the longest in Dolphins history, and gave Miami their fifth-straight win, though they were playing catch up at the time and ended the season at just 8-8. In total, Miller rushed for over a thousand yards that season and added another 275 receiving yards for good measure.

T-5th Place: Lamar Miller – November 26th, 2018 vs. Tennessee Titans

Miller made history on Monday Night Football by becoming the first player ever to rush for more than 93 yards on two separate occasions. The only other two players with 97 yards from scrimmage on a single play are both wide receivers, meaning Miller owns a killer novelty record.

2018 would prove to be Miller’s final year as a pro football player, but he went out with a bang by compiling 973 rushing yards, bringing his career total to nearly 6,000 in just seven years. It was also the first and only time he earned a Pro Bowl selection.

T-5th Place: Bob Gage – December 4th, 1949 vs. Chicago Bears

Gage’s 97-yard touchdown run was special for two reasons. The first is that he was just 21 years of age. In over 70 years since that day, no player younger than Gage has managed to rush for 90 yards or more on a single play. It’s still a franchise record for the Steelers.

The second thing that makes this play special is that it came on a fake punt. That means that he not only earned the Steelers 97 yards from scrimmage, but he actually started his run from ten yards behind scrimmage. I don’t guess often when I’m writing, but in this case I’d be willing to bet that 107 yards of running is a record in its own right.

T-3rd Place: Ronald Jones II – November 15th, 2020 vs. Carolina Panthers

At 23 years old, Jones became just the fourth player in history to break out a touchdown run of at least 98 yards. It’s the longest offensive play in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise, and helped the team to a 46-23 rout of the Panthers.

Jones reached a maximum rushing speed of 19.49 miles per hour according to ESPN. It came at perhaps the perfect time, serving as redemption for a fumble the third-year running back committed early on in the game that led to a Panthers touchdown.

T-3rd Place: Ahman Green – December 28th, 2003 vs. Denver Broncos

Green’s 98-yard touchdown run came in the Packers’ final game of the 2003 season. Not only did the play become the longest rushing play in Packers history, but Green’s 218 total rushing yards that day set a Packers’ franchise record as well. Both of those records still stand tall to this day.

Considering Green’s impressive 12-year career with over 9,000 total rushing yards, nobody would consider his 2003 run a fluke. But just to put an exclamation point on his statement to the league, Green broke out another titanic run the following season when he rushed for 90 yards against the Cowboys on October 24th, 2004.

T-1st Place: Tony Dorsett – January 3rd, 1983 vs. Minnesota Vikings

On Monday Night Football nearly 40 years ago, Dorsett set an NFL record by storming 99 yards from scrimmage for a touchdown. No other player was able to match that record for 35 years, until the next player on this list finally accomplished the same feat in 2018.

A former number two overall pick, Dorsett fully lived up to his pedigree over the course of his long career. In 11 years with the Dallas Cowboys (and one more with the Broncos), the hall of famer rushed for a grand total of 12,739 yards and added another 3,554 receiving for a total of over 16,000 offensive yards.

T-1st Place: Derrick Henry – December 6th, 2018 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Though it’s tied for the longest, there’s some debate surrounding whether this is truly one of the most impressive runs in NFL history. In my eyes, Henry’s brutal stiff-arming and manhandling of two unfortunate Jaguars defenders is a show of the Titan’s physical strength, but some skeptics simply look at it as two horribly botched tackling attempts.

Whatever you believe about that play, Henry’s young career is off to a great start. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection last year by rushing for a total of 1,540 yards, and has already amassed nearly 1,000 through just nine games in 2020. 

Featured image courtesy of Jack Kurzenknabe, via Flickr.

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