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Greatest Kansas Football Players of All-Time Bracket: Gale Sayers vs John Riggins

(1) Sayers vs (2) Riggins

Los Angeles Rams v Washington Redskins Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

Two of the most famous Jayhawks of all-time meet for a final four berth in our bracket. Good luck picking one of these guys over the other!

(1) Gale Sayers

One of the most nationally recognized Jayhawks of all-time, Sayers played three seasons (1962-64) for the Jayhawks (freshmen weren’t eligible until the 1972 season). He was named first team All-Big 8 in each of his three seasons, and first team All-American in his final two seasons. All told at Kansas, he carried the ball 412 times for 2675 yards. For those who struggle with math, that’s 6.5 yards per carry. He added 18 rushing TDs, 35 receptions for 398 yards, and 1 receiving TD. He also returned kicks, getting a huge touchdown in an upset of the Oklahoma Sooners during the 1964 season.

Sayers is still the highest ever Jayhawk taken in the NFL draft, being picked 4th overall in the 1965 by the Chicago Bears. In just seven NFL seasons, Sayers was impressive enough to be named to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1977, the youngest inductee in the Hall’s history. In addition, the Bears retired his #40 jersey in 1994.

Overall, Sayers ran for 4956 yards on 991 carries and 39 rushing TDs. He still owns the overall TD record for a rookie (rushing plus receiving) with 22, most TDs in a game (6), and highest kickoff return average (30.56).

Sayers’ name graces the Ring of Honor at Memorial Stadium. He is the only Jayhawk to be inducted into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

(2) John Riggins

Centralia-raised Riggins ran for Kansas from 1968-70, and I mean he ran and ran and ran. In 31 games for the Jayhawks, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry, finishing his Kansas career with 2659 rush yards, a mark that at the time broke Gale Sayers’ rushing record and still ranks 7th in the KU record books.

He was part of the 1968 Orange Bowl team, a year in which he was named first team All-Big 8. His senior year of 1970 also saw him pick up first team All-Conference honors. Both of his All-Big 8 honors had him listed at fullback.

Riggins was drafted 6th overall by the New York Jets in the 1971 NFL Draft. He spent five years with the Jets before signing as a free agent with the Washington Redskins, where he would spend the rest of his NFL career.

If you haven’t read about it yet and have some free time, his contract dispute a few years later with the Redskins is an interesting story. He wanted to renegotiate his deal, the Redskins refused, and he sat out the 1980 season. Joe Gibbs came to Kansas to re-recruit Riggins, and click the link if you want to find out what happened.

Riggins finished his NFL career with, well, a lot of NFL records - 20 if you believe Wikipedia. He totaled 11,352 rushing yards and 104 TDs. In addition, he was the MVP of Super Bowl XVII and an NFL Hall of Famer, class of 1992.

All of his success led to not only having his own ballad but several pretty cool nicknames, including “The Big Rig” and “The Diesel.” In addition, Riggins is enshrined in KU’s Ring of Honor at Memorial Stadium.

Riggins is one of four former KU players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.


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