Penn State Football

Legends of the Backfield: Ranking Top-5 Penn State Football Running Backs of All-Time

Penn State Football has a rich history of producing exceptional running backs who have left an indelible mark on the program.

From electrifying speedsters to workhorse bruisers, these players have captivated fans with their skill, determination, and unforgettable performances on the gridiron.

In this article, we look back at the top five Penn State running backs of all time, recognizing their contributions and celebrating their legacy.

Ranking the Top-5 Penn State Football RBs of All-Time

No. 5 – Curt Warner

Curt Warner was a cornerstone of the Penn State Football offense during the early 1980s, helping lead the Nittany Lions to a national championship in 1982.

Warner’s combination of power and agility allowed him to thrive in both the running and receiving game. He ranks second in program history in career rushing yards with 3,398 and amassed an impressive 24 100-yard rushing games.

Warner’s ability to carry the workload and come up clutch in big moments made him a beloved figure among Penn State faithful.


No. 4 – Ki-Jana Carter

Ki-Jana Carter’s impact on Penn State Football cannot be overstated.

As a key member of the legendary 1994 team that went undefeated and captured the Rose Bowl, Carter’s dynamic play and breakaway speed made him a nightmare for defenses. His remarkable performance in the Rose Bowl, where he rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns, solidified his status as one of the program’s all-time greats.

Although injuries derailed his NFL career, Carter’s legacy at Penn State remains untarnished.

No. 3 – Larry Johnson

Larry Johnson’s name is synonymous with record-breaking success.

During his time at Penn State from 1999 to 2002, Johnson showcased his remarkable talent and etched his name in the school’s record books.

Johnson holds the single-season rushing record with an astounding 2,087 yards, earning consensus All-American honors in the process. Johnson’s explosive speed, elusive moves, and ability to hit the open field made him a constant threat to opposing defenses.

His remarkable career set the stage for future running back excellence at Penn State.


No. 2 – Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2015 and quickly established himself as one of the most electrifying and versatile running backs in Penn State Football history.

Blessed with exceptional speed, agility, and a knack for making highlight-reel plays, Barkley became a fan favorite during his three-year tenure.

Barkley amassed an impressive 3,843 rushing yards and 43 total touchdowns, leaving a trail of broken records in his wake. His impact extended beyond the field, as he brought a renewed sense of excitement and optimism to the program.

No. 1 – Franco Harris

Franco Harris stands tall as one of the greatest running backs not only in Penn State history but in the annals of college football.

His powerful running style, coupled with his uncanny ability to break tackles and make defenders miss, made him a force to be reckoned with.

Harris played for the Nittany Lions from 1969 to 1971, earning All-American honors and leading Penn State to an undefeated season and a national championship in 1971. His iconic “Immaculate Reception” in the NFL remains etched in football folklore.

Penn State Football
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