Sayers and Cornish both cruised into the second round of our bracket, with Sayers taking out Bud Laughlin and Cornish eliminating Clark Green.
Whoever comes out of the running back bracket will have #EarnedIt, because KU has had a lot of great backs in its history. To wit:
(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 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.
(8) Jon Cornish
Cornish may actually have the stats to give Sayers a run for his money here. While at Kansas, Cornish’s breakout season came in his junior year, as he led the 2005 Jayhawks in all rushing categories. He amassed 780 total yards that season with 9 rushing touchdowns, and his 72-yard TD run against Nebraska helped the Jayhawks beat the Huskers for the first time in 38 years. He added for 101 rushing yards and had two huge TD receptions in the Fort Worth Bowl that season, the first bowl win for Mangino's Jayhawks.
Cornish was even better as a senior in 2006. He set the single-season mark for rushing yards at KU, going for 1457 while scoring 8 rushing TDs, 1 receiving TD, and getting over the 100-yard mark in 8 games. He was first team All-Big 12 that year, setting up an impressive CFL career.
Again it took a couple of years, but Cornish broke out professionally in 2010, with a 7.3 YPC (highest in the CFL) that year. He led his team in rushing in 2011 despite not starting until Week 13. In 2012, he won the CFL rushing title with 1457 yards, the same number that set the single-season mark at Kansas. He eclipsed that with 1,813 yards in 2013, and won another rushing title in 2014 before health factors caused him to retire after the 2015 season.
Overall, he played 152 games in the CFL (including playoffs), amassing 1117 rushes for 7401 yards and 46 TDs.
Who was the greater Jayhawk? Register your vote in the comments below. Other matchups can be found here.