Ranking the best NFL running backs from BYU

Updated: January 1, 2018

BYU has had a wealth of really good college running backs over the years, but that hasn’t translated into NFL success. In fact, three of the best running backs from BYU never even took a regular-season snap in the league.

While the Cougars haven’t produced a lot of every-down backs there have been some players who made solid contributions on NFL rosters

Here is the ranking of the best-of-the-best of those players – the best NFL running backs out of BYU.

The rankings are based on what each player did during their careers as a running back in the NFL. No other part of their playing careers were taken into consideration.

Note: 18 players from BYU have seen regular-season action as running backs in the NFL, but only ten make the list. The guys who played in the league, but missed the cut are Pete Van Valkenberg, Peter Tuipulotu, Casey Tiumalu, Manase Tonga, Spencer Nead, Dustin Johnson, Jamal Willis and Ronney Jenkins. Of the eight, only Ronney Jenkins spent more than one season seeing field time in the NFL, but had almost all of his success as a return man.

10. Bruce Hansen (1987)

Hansen made the New England Patriots roster and played six games in 1987 including two starts. He carried the ball 16 times for 44 yards as well as catching one pass for 22 yards.

9. Nyle McFarlane (1960)

McFarlane made the NFL as a member of the Oakland Raiders in 1960 and appeared in 13 games. He had four rushes for 52 yards and made five receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

8. Robert Parker (1987)

Parker played for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1987 and appeared in three games, starting two. He carried the ball 47 times for 150 yards and one touchdown as well as catching seven passes for 44 yards.

7. Lakei Heimuli (1987)

Heimuli was the 249th pick in the ninth round of the 1987 draft by the Chicago Bears. He made the Bears roster that season and appeared in three games.  Heimuli had 34 carries for 128 yards as well as catching five passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.

6. Naufahu Tahi (2006-10)

Tahi had a five-year NFL career and saw action in four of those seasons.  He played for the Minnesota Vikings from 2006 through 2010 and appeared in 56 games, including 14 starts. He carried the ball 10 times for 21 yards and caught 33 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

5. Reno Mahe (2003-07)

Mahe played for five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and appeared in 55 games, including one start. His best season came in 2004 when he rushed for 91 yards on 23 carries and caught 14 passes for 123 yards.

During his career, he carried the ball 47 times for 196 yards and made 33 catches for 230 yards in 55 games.

4. Vai Sikahema (1986-93)

Sikahema was the 254th pick in the tenth round of the 1986 draft by the Saint Louis Cardinals. He played eight seasons in the NFL for three teams. His best season as a running back came in 1989 as a member of the Phoenix Cardinals when he rushed for 145 yards on 38 carries. He also caught 23 passes for 245 yards.

During his career, Sikahema carried the ball 89 times for 217 yards and caught 53 passes for 537 yards and one touchdown in 118 games.

3. Eric Lane (1981-87)

Lane was the 196th pick in the eighth round of the 1981 draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He played all seven of his NFL seasons with the Seahawks and had his best year in 1984.  That season, he rushed for 299 yards and four touchdowns on 80 carries to go along with 11 receptions for 101 yards and another score.

During his career, Lane rushed for 405 yards and four touchdowns as well as catching 42 balls for 357 yards and two more scores in 97 games.

2. Bill Ring (1981-86)

Ring spent all six of his NFL seasons as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. His best season came in 1983 when he rushed for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 64 carries. He also caught 23 passes for 182 yards.

During his career, Ring rushed for 732 yards and seven touchdowns and had 45 receptions for 336 yards and another score in 69 games.

1. Jamaal Williams (2017-current)

All it took was one season for Williams to prove himself as the best NFL running back from BYU. His rookie year numbers blow away the career totals of almost every other player on this list and destroy the best seasons of everyone by a mile. He finished his rookie campaign with four games of more than 100 yards from scrimmage and two multiple touchdown performances.

On the season, he totaled 153 carries for 556 yards and four touchdowns. He added 25 receptions for 262 yards and two additional scores in 16 games.



One thought on “Ranking the best NFL running backs from BYU

  1. Reblogged this on JMoneySports and commented:

    With his sights set on a huge sophomore season, that has already produced a receiving touchdown in the first preseason game, Jamaal Williams is on track to widen the gap he already created from a strong rookie year.
    I expect some very big things from Williams this time around along with a handful of other Cougars who will continue to make huge plays on the game’s biggest stage against the toughest competition.
    Look for Ziggy Ansah and Kyle Van Noy to also have career years as key members of the defense for the Detroit Lions and the New England Patriots.
    Both showed signs of brilliance last year, but also missed time with injuries.
    Excited to see what the three former BYU stars can do in the League this season along with a number of other former Cougars who will be looking to make their mark.


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