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Mount Rushmore Mondays: Which four FSU running backs belong?

Determining the Mount Rushmore of FSU greats, position by position.

Miami v Florida State Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Let’s get the choosin’ underway.

To help the offseason pass a bit faster Tomahawk Nation is introducing our new Mount Rushmore series, where we’ll be determining the top four Seminoles at each position by weighing everything from stats to accomplishments to historical significance.

Each Monday, we’ll post a poll for the Tomahawk Nation community to choose their top four Seminoles for that week’s position group. On Tuesday, various TN contributors will make their cases in a roundtable format and then finally, we’ll share final poll results each Thursday to determine that position’s Mount Rushmore.

This week, we’re continuing the series by looking at the running backs. Check out a brief description under each player or click on their names to read more about their accomplishments (alongside selections from our previous series revolving around the top 100 players in FSU history and the top 100 plays), then vote for your top four at the bottom and let us know the reasoning behind your choices in the comments.

Let the debate begin!

Cam Akers (2017-2019)

One of the most sought-after players in the nation and the country’s top running back recruit in the 2017 class, the five-star Akers ranked as the No. 2 player nationally and the No. 1 running back as part of 247Sports Composite when he signed with FSU out of high school. By the time he left Tallahassee, the record books certainly reflected this ranking, despite Akers running behind some porous offensive lines and dealing with uneven QB play. He even broke Dalvin Cook’s freshman rushing yardage record.

Akers was a workhorse for the Seminoles, averaging 958.0 rushing yards per season (which ranks third in program history) on 586 rushing attempts (good for fifth all-time at FSU). He accumulated 2,874 total rushing yards and 11 different 100-yard games (sixth on FSU’s all-time lists), accounting for 34 touchdowns (tied for sixth in program history). Akers became the third Seminole in program history with multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons, joining Warrick Dunn and Dalvin Cook. Pretty good company.

Akers’ best performance came against the Syracuse Orange in 2019, rushing for 144 yards on 20 carries and tying a program-record with four rushing touchdowns. Earlier that season, Akers put FSU on his back and helped the Seminoles avoid disaster in a 45-44 OT win against ULM. He finished with 36 carries (more than any FSU running back in a game in program history at the time) for 193 yards, added five catches for 55 yards, and had three total touchdowns.

Akers would be drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Rams, seeing his hard work in Tallahassee pay off. In 29 games as a pro, Akers has accumulated 1,414 yards on the ground, 250 receiving yards, and 10 total touchdowns.

Greg Allen (1981-1984)

If you aren’t familiar with the name, allow us to educate you on Greg Allen. A soft-spoken star on the gridiron and on the track, all Allen did was something that neither Warrick Dunn nor Dalvin Cook can claim— he earned All-America honors in four-straight seasons as a Seminole RB between 1981-1984.

Allen wasted little time in cementing his status as a legend at FSU. In his true freshman season, he ripped the LSU Tigers for a school record 202 rushing yards in a win at Death Valley in his first start. A week later, Allen shredded Western Carolina—and his seven-day-old record—for an astounding 322 yards on the ground, a total that remains the single-game record among ’Nole rushers, and he returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score. His 417 all-purpose yards in that game remain the highest single-game RB total in FSU history. Allen would also hang 109 rushing yards on the Miami Hurricanes that year, giving him three 100+ yard games for the season.

In 1982, Allen authored a couple of four-touchdown games, against the South Carolina Gamecocks and Louisville Cardinals. Dalvin Cook, Antone Smith, and Cam Akers are the only other backs in FSU history who can claim four-touchdown games on the ground (Cook also did it twice in one season). Allen’s 20 rushing scores in 1982 are still tops in FSU history, and he added another three 100-yard games that year against Louisville, the West Virginia Mountaineers, and Ohio State.

1983 was Allen’s real breakout year as if he hadn’t done plenty already. He again gashed LSU, this time for 201 yards, which headlined his five forays over the century mark in 1983. Allen hit rushing paydirt 13 times and accumulated 1,134 yards. Allen capped his Seminole career in style in 1984, with a real gem of a performance against the Arizona State Sun Devils. He rushed for 223 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown scamper, leading FSU to a 52-44 win on the road. He averaged 10.1 yards per carry in the game, tied with Cook for the most ever in one game at FSU with a minimum of 20 attempts.

Edgar Bennett (1987-1991)

A do-it-all fullback that set the standard for future versatile Seminoles in the backfield like Lonnie Pryor, Edgar Bennett was a force to be reckoned with at Florida State.

The skilled and speedy fullback began to make his mark his freshman year, recording 389 all-purpose yards, but a broken hand two games into the 1988 season sidelined him for the rest of the year. He was granted a medical redshirt int he aftermath, and returned in 1989 with 490 all-purpose yards, setting a standard of nearly equaling his rushing total (277) with his receiving (213) that he’d consistently achieve through the rest of his time in Tallahassee, though his four touchdowns that season all came via the ground. The first score of his career came in a 31-21 upset of No. 21 LSU, earning the clinching touchdown on a seven-yard run.

In 1990, Bennett doubled his scoring output, putting up nine total touchdowns (five rushing, four passing) while rushing for 302 yards and catching 19 balls for 397 yards. His two touchdowns vs. No. 5 Florida helped give Florida State its fourth straight win over the Gators, good enough for a 9-2 record and a berth in the newly-named Blockbuster Bowl vs. Penn State, who they’d go on to defeat 24-17.

With FSU starting 1991 as the No. 1 team in the country based on the success of the season before, Bennett kicked off his redshirt senior season with his best game in the garnet and gold: a three-touchdown, 163 all-purpose yard game vs. No. 19 BYU.

The Seminoles, inching closer and closer to a national title, went 53-8 during Bennett’s career, never finishing lower than fourth in each of his five years in Tallahassee. He put up 20 touchdowns (13 rushing, seven receiving) and over 2,300 all-purpose yards for Florida State, stats good enough to not only get drafted in the fourth round by the Green Bay Packers as a running back, but also for induction in the FSU Hall of Fame as part of the 2005 class.

In five seasons in Green Bay in the Mike Holmgren offense, Bennett gained 3,352 rushing yards (only fumbling three times), caught 242 passes, and scored 31 total touchdowns. He led the 1996 Super Bowl Champion Packers in rushing and set the club single-season record for receptions by a running back with 78.

Lorenzo Booker (2002-2005)

Perhaps the closest thing to Warrick Dunn Seminole fans had seen since the mid-90s, Booker (donning that beautiful #28 jersey) was certified lightning in a bottle. Do yourself a favor and watch some of his highlights on YouTube- Booker had some serious moves and routinely left defenders feeling foolish. While Booker had his strongest statistical season as a sophomore with 887 rushing yards, he morphed into more of a threat in the passing game by the time he completed his career, catching 71 balls in his final two seasons. There was even talk about permanently moving Booker to slot receiver to get him more involved, though it never materialized.

Booker had the vibe that he could break a big play every time the ball hit his hands, and he finished his Florida State career with 3,384 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. He will forever be linked with fellow RB Leon Washington, as the combo was a formidable duo but cut into each other’s stats due to questionable usage later in their careers from then-offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden.

The most fascinating aspect of Lorenzo Booker’s FSU journey was his recruitment- he is considered the Godfather of TV announcements. Constantly harassed by then-recruiting guru Tom Lemming (appropriate last name) throughout his senior season, ESPN approached Booker about announcing his college commitment on prime-time national television. Despite Lemming’s best efforts to steer Booker to Notre Dame, the words “I’ve got to go to Florida State” came out of his mouth on SportsCenter, fulfilling Booker’s dream of starring at FSU.

Dexter Carter (1986-1989)

Carter’s 17 rushing touchdowns and 1,788 career rushing yards are definitely good, but not elite. His 732 kick return yards is impressive, but not legendary. Carter’s versatility out of the backfield allowed him to rack up 3,260 all-purpose yards. Splitting time with Sammie Smith for most of his career, Carter wasn’t even the best back on the team for his first three years. During his senior year he battled injuries, managing just an honorable mention all-American nod from The Sporting News.

And yet, ask any long-time FSU fan and they’ll tell you that Carter’s lightning-in-a-bottle explosiveness and penchant for making big plays when FSU needed them most made his career more impactful than the raw stats suggest. Carter’s most memorable play came in the opening minute of one of the greatest wins in FSU history, 1989 Miami. In fact, this play was ranked number 7 on Tomahawk Nation’s countdown of the top 100 greatest plays in school history:

When it’s all said and done, Carter’s impact was so much more than his stats suggest. He was part of the group that started a dynasty. He helped bring flash and dash to a program that needed to go toe to toe with the brash Hurricanes to the south. He set the mold for shifty, yet hard-nosed running backs at Florida State that could take it to the house on any touch. Carter always seemed to play best when the lights were brightest.

After his stellar college career, Carter was selected in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Taking over for an injured Roger Craig, Carter led the 49ers in rushing his rookie season, while also returning kicks. While he never became a featured tailback, his kick and punt-returning talents proved elite. In 1994 he helped San Francisco win Super Bowl XXIX, leading the team in both categories. Then, in 1996, Carter was selected as a member of the San Francisco 49ers' 50th-anniversary modern-era all-time team. To this day he remains second in franchise history in kick-off return yards and fourth in franchise history in punt return yards. He also returned to Tallahassee and coached running backs for FSU.

Of course, all of the above serves merely as a preamble to link this video of Carter slamming a flag on Bernard Clark’s head:

Dalvin Cook (2015-2016)

As a high school recruit, Dalvin Cook was one of the most sought-after players in the nation. Cook lived up to the hype as a five-star recruit during his time at Florida State. All he did was rack up 4,464 yards and 46 touchdowns on the ground, becoming FSU’s all-time leading rusher in only three seasons and finishing just shy of numerous other FSU RB records held by Warrick Dunn and Greg Allen.

Cook ranks second in FSU history with 5,399 all-purpose yards and is seventh in ACC history (the most for any player with zero return yards). He also ranks second in ACC history in career rush yards and is the only player in the league to break 4,000 career yards in just three seasons. He ranks 11th in NCAA history for rushing yards in a player’s first three seasons. He racked up all kinds of awards in his three seasons, including the Jim Brown Award as a sophomore and unanimous All-American honors, and Orange Bowl MVP in his junior campaign.

Certainly impressive statistics, but Cook’s impact in Tallahassee goes beyond the numbers. Cook almost single-handedly carried the Seminoles through the 2016 season. The program was showing major signs of slippage under Jimbo Fisher, but Cook delayed the inevitable for a full year with his brilliant junior season, finishing the regular season with 1,765 rushing yards, 488 receiving yards (third on the team), and 20 total touchdowns. Nearly every time FSU needed magic to happen in big moments, Cook delivered. He came in clutch time and again, landing the Seminoles in the victory column in numerous games they otherwise would have squandered away.

After rewriting the history books in Tallahassee, Cook was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, where he racked up just under 6,000 rushing yards, 1,800 yards through the air, and 52 total touchdowns prior to being released this off-season.

Warrick Dunn (1993-1996)

Warrick Dunn entered Florida State a fighter, a survivor, and one of the top 10 high school football players in Louisiana, and he was an incredibly versatile weapon in the Florida State backfield from the moment he arrived on campus. His 511 rushing yards, 357 receiving yards, and 10 total touchdowns earned him second-team freshman All-American honors and helped push the Seminoles to their first national championship. Dunn’s electric freshman season included one of the most memorable plays in FSU history when he torched the Gators for 140 yards receiving and the touchdown that silenced the Swamp and would become known as “Ward to Dunn.”

In his sophomore season, Dunn would eclipse the thousand-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career. Adding nine more touchdowns to his name, Dunn earned 1995 Sugar Bowl MVP honors and collected more accolades after being named an All-American honorable mention by United Press International.

Dunn’s junior year campaign would be his best statistically, garnering 1,242 yards rushing (averaging an astonishing 7.5 yards per carry) with 13 touchdowns. Dunn also hauled in three scores through the air, leading to selections as both an honorable mention and third-team All-American. In his final year in the garnet and gold, Dunn would again surpass 1,000 yards rushing, adding 355 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns, landing him atop FSU’s all-time touchdown leaders. Dunn’s senior year would finally see him named a first-team All-American.

Dunn became the first back in Florida State history to record three consecutive thousand-yard rushing seasons, earning him three first-team All-ACC nods. His 3,959 rushing yards established him as FSU’s rushing leader until a kid by the name of Dalvin Cook made his way to Tallahassee. He was elected to the FSU Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and is one of just 11 Seminoles to have his number retired. He went on to rush for nearly 11,000 yards and 49 TDs in 12 NFL seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons.

Alongside his incredible career on the gridiron, Dunn will always be remembered for overcoming incredible adversity in the loss of his mother and using that experience to fuel a lifetime of philanthropic community service. In his rookie season at Tampa Bay, founded the Homes for the Holidays program to fulfill his mother’s dream of home ownership for single-parent families. The program partners with local organizations to turn houses into homes for single-parent families through home furnishings and down-payment assistance. Since its inception, Homes for the Holidays has furnished 169 homes, provided over $800,000 in down-payment assistance, and served over 457 single parents and children.

William Floyd (1990-1993)

William Floyd hit Tallahassee in 1990 by way of St. Petersburg’s Lakewood High School. He redshirted his first season, but contributed important minutes as Edgar Bennett’s backup the following year, scoring six touchdowns and showing that he was more than just a hard man to tackle out of the backfield and a fine blocker— Floyd was also versatile, as two of his scores came on the ground, three through the air, and one on a fake field goal during FSU’s 51-31 trouncing of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

But that was far from Floyd’s only big special teams moment in ’91. With the Seminoles still undefeated, he scored the go-ahead touchdown at LSU in Death Valley in late October, and after FSU extended its lead later, he made an amazing hustle play on a botched point-after attempt that preserved Florida State’s 27-16 margin of victory. It was such an impressive effort that it made our top 100 FSU football plays list. Check out this speed, keeping in mind that he’s running down a cornerback:

In 1992, Floyd led Florida State in touchdowns with 10, and after a fourth-place final AP ranking in ’91, the Seminoles went 11-1 and finished second, while winning the ACC in their first year in the conference— the first of nine consecutive ACC crowns.

1993 brought Florida State its first national title, and Floyd was an integral piece to the puzzle. He logged a career-high 63 carries and amassed 321 total rushing yards, an impressive 5.1 YPC average. His performance in the national championship game against Nebraska was massive, as he averaged 7.6 YPC on seven totes and scored a fourth-quarter TD.

He was the first Seminole to be selected in the 1994 NFL Draft, as the San Francisco 49ers took him in the first round. That’s right: a fullback, in the first round. Floyd collected a title in the pros as well, one of four ’Noles from the ’93 team to do so. He helped the Niners win Super Bowl XXIX as a rookie— only he and Bryan Stork have won a national championship with FSU and then captured a Super Bowl victory the following season.

Devonta Freeman (2011-2013)

When Devonta Freeman committed to Florida State in June of 2010 he was just a two-star prospect, a result of coming of age in one of football’s Meccas, South Florida. Having backed up Brandon Gainer (a four-star recruit that would commit to Kentucky) his junior season, Freeman didn’t receive much attention, but a successful camp circuit began to earn him offers: namely, one from Florida State. (Freeman would finish as a four-star prospect, with offers from Auburn, Florida and UCF, amongst others.)

In 2013 it would all come perfectly together for the speedster, when he became Florida State’s first 1000 yard rusher since Warrick Dunn in 1996. An essential part of the doomsday device that was the Seminoles’ offense in its national championship year, Freeman’s finest moment perhaps came against Miami, when the two schools met undefeated for the first time since 2004.

Freeman, a Miami native who had been mentored by Hurricane superfan Uncle Luke, had a little bit of extra swagger to his step as he put up three total touchdowns against the No. 7 team in the country, running for 78 yards and two scores while also catching six balls for 98 yards and a touchdown.

He’d go on to score a touchdown in each of Florida State’s remaining six games, the final being the first strike in the Seminoles’ rally to come back against Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game.

A third-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2014, Freeman came within 15 minutes and the play-calling of Kyle Shanahan of being a Super Bowl champion and probable MVP in 2017. He finished up his career in Atlanta in 2019 with 3972 yards and 32 touchdowns, alongside 2015 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns through the air, spending years with the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens.

Greg Jones (2000-2003)

Has there ever been a more punishing runner to wear Garnet and Gold? Former UNC defensive back Dexter Reid won’t argue with that, as Greg Jones is the sole reason people remember his name. Reid was one of many accomplished defenders who found themselves on the wrong end of a hit or stiff-arm from Jones, including all-world Miami safety Sean Taylor and the entire Clemson defense. Greg Jones could walk into a room and make people think he was a bodybuilder- his thighs were tree trunks and his arms were bigger than many other teammates, including some linemen.

Jones was truly a linebacker in a tailback’s body that struck fear in the hearts of defenders everywhere, particularly poor defensive backs who found themselves filling running lanes only to be rammed by a runaway locomotive wearing garnet and gold. Jones ranks 8th on the all-time FSU rushing yards list with 2,535 yards to go along with 23 career touchdowns. His most memorable game was when he romped for 189 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown in a heartbreaking 2002 loss vs. Miami.

Believe it or not, Jones is the cousin of heavyweight boxing champ Joe Frazier, though the jury may still be out on who hits harder. Primarily used as a blocker and short-yardage runner, Jones, unfortunately, dealt with injuries throughout his professional career. He tallied 913 yards on the ground, 471 receiving yards, and 13 total touchdowns over nine seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans.

Larry Key (1974-1977)

Larry Key played a large role in changing Florida State as a program. When he arrived, FSU was just not a good football team. In his first year, the Seminoles finished an abysmal 1-10. Key’s stats and playmaking ability grew year-by-year until his final campaign when he served as a team captain in 1977. Adding to the lore of that season, FSU snapped a 9-year losing streak to the Gators with Key tallying 185 all-purpose yards (143 rushing, 42 kick-return) in the game. In his final appearance in the garnet and gold, Key went off for 314 all-purpose yards (83 rushing, 100 receiving, and 131 kick-return yards, including a TD) as FSU dismantled Texas Tech 40-17 in the Tangerine Bowl.

Key helped lead the ’Noles to their first 10-win season in 1977 and became the first player in Florida State history to rush for over a thousand yards when he gained 1,117 as a senior (still 8th all-time in FSU single-season history). Not only was this a milestone of its own, but it proved vital to Bobby Bowden’s success in making FSU a powerhouse, helping recruit players that would make up the dominant teams of ‘79 and ‘80.

Bobby Bowden loved Larry’s ‘fro

Key gained over 100 yards on 10 different occasions and finished with 2,953 career rushing yards as a Seminole, which still ranks 5th all-time. He also set four kick return records and was the national leader in all-purpose yardage in 1977. By his senior year, Florida State fans had adopted the habit of shaking their keys every time he touched the ball to pay their respects to #44. The sound of jingling keys radiating from Doak Campbell Stadium could only mean one thing- that Larry Key had once again made a big play.

Amp Lee (1989-1991)

Anthonea Wayne Lee (known by coaches, teammates, and fans alike as “Amp”) arrived at FSU in the summer of 1989, by way of Chipley, a small town in the Florida Panhandle. In high school Amp had been a two-sport star, leading the basketball team to the 2A state finals while scoring 68 touchdowns and nabbing 25 interceptions (yes, 25) during a sterling football career. So, despite having Dexter Carter and Edgar Bennett on the depth chart, Lee was simply too good to redshirt.

Wasting little time as a freshman, Lee finished 5th on the team in all-purpose yards in 1989 and third on the team in touchdowns, with three rushing and three receiving. His freshman year also included the first start of his career when he filled in for an injured Dexter Carter against the 11th-ranked Auburn Tigers and promptly rushed for 110 yards on 25 carries, helping the Seminoles earn a hard-fought win.

Lee exploded in 1990, leading FSU with 18 rushing touchdowns and another two via the pass, giving him 20 total TDs on the season. 1991 saw Lee named a Walter Camp 1st Team All-American, as the junior rushed for 977 yards, another 11 touchdowns, nearly 350 receiving yards, and three more scores.

Despite only starting in the backfield for FSU for two years out of his three years as a Nole, Lee is still ranked third on the All-Time career rushing touchdown list behind Greg Allen and Warrick Dunn, and he still managed to snag 70 receptions during his short time as a Seminole. Amp was named a Walter Camp First Team All-American in addition to All-American honors his junior year before going pro.

Despite leaving for the NFL with one year of eligibility remaining after playing only three years, Lee is still considered one the finest players to grace the FSU offensive backfield. His ability to make defenders miss with his evasiveness, quick cuts, and speed, as well as his ability to get open as an outlet receiver, is what allowed him to score three touchdowns in a game on four different occasions, and two touchdowns in a game on six different occasions.

Amp is still ranked 4th in total touchdowns by a running back in a season with 18 TD’s in 1990, and is tied for 4th with Devonta Freeman for rushing touchdowns in a career with 30. Lee simply had a knack for finding pay dirt, electrifying the crowd time and time again. Leaving FSU after his junior season, Lee was taken in the second round of the 1992 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Playing for five different teams over a nine-year career, Lee amassed more than 3,000 receiving yards. His best year was in 1997 when he caught 61 balls for 825 yards and three scores for the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams, being named the Rams’ team MVP in the process.

Travis Minor (1997-2000)

How’s this for running back pedigree: Travis Minor made his way to Tallahassee from Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana— the same high school that produced fellow Florida State running back Warrick Dunn. Like Dunn, Minor excelled as both a football and track star, both in Louisiana and at Florida State.

Also like Dunn, Minor’s impact at FSU was felt immediately, as the latter rushed for 623 yards in his freshman year of 1997, the fourth-highest frosh rushing total in program history. He also accounted for 9 rushing touchdowns, his career high as a Seminole and a tie for the 17th most in garnet and gold. He was a second-team All-ACC honoree in his initial campaign and was named ACC Rookie of the Year.

1998 saw the ’Noles waste little time in establishing Minor as their clearcut feature back. In an opening win over Texas A&M, Minor carried the ball 34 times, among the most ever in a single Seminole contest. But he was versatile as well, known as an outstanding blocker and receiving back. Repeating as a second-team All-ACC choice, Minor helped FSU return to the national title game. And even though that banged-up FSU squad came up short against Tennessee, Minor held his own, averaging 5.5 YPC on 15 totes.

In 1999, Minor and the ’Noles atoned for the previous season’s disappointment, authoring an undefeated season and going wire-to-wire as the nation’s No. 1 team. Minor’s biggest game of the season was his 146-yard performance against Miami in which his fourth-quarter score iced a 31-21 win. In addition to a national championship ring, Minor also collected first-team All-ACC honors in 1999.

Minor’s most productive rushing season was his senior season in 2000 when he went for 923 yards, the 19th-highest total in school history. For the third consecutive season, the Seminoles played for the national title, coming up short against Oklahoma. Minor was an All-ACC second-teamer.

Travis Minor remains the only player in FSU history to have led the team in rushing for four years. Though he never enjoyed a 1,000-yard season or an All-America nod and doesn’t have a single-game rushing total in the top 20 at Florida State, he was a steadying force who did everything well, and that’s proven by his lofty position in the FSU record books.

In both total yards (3,218) and 100-yard games (14), Minor ranks fourth behind Dalvin Cook, Warrick Dunn, and Greg Allen. He’s also sixth all-time with 28 rushing TDs for the ’Noles. Moreover, Minor’s FSU teams achieved tremendous success. From 1997-2000, the Seminoles combined for a record of 45-5 and won the ACC every year. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the third round of the 2001 draft.

Antone Smith (2005-2008)

A ballyhooed recruit out of Pahokee, Florida, Smith’s career got off to a slower start than most anticipated. Not only was the compactly built speedster sharing a backfield with soon-to-be NFL running backs Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington, but the 2005 FSU offense as a whole struggled to consistently move the ball, with the run-blocking particularly being a struggle. In fact, Booker had the only 100-yard rushing performance on the season.

But over his final three seasons, Smith rushed for over 2,000 yards and 23 TDs, while adding almost 500 yards and another score receiving. In 2007, Smith rushed for over 100 yards three times, including 114 yards against arch-rival Miami and 156 yards on just 17 carries in the Music City Bowl game against Kentucky, where Smith kept FSU in it all day despite the Seminoles missing dozens of players.

In 2008, Smith morphed into a scoring machine. Helping FSU win 9 games for the first time since 2004, Smith found pay dirt 16 times, including 15 rushing touchdowns which is still tied for the 5th most in a season in school history. His back-to-back performances against Colorado and Miami—both wins—were “carry the team on your back” type of games. Over that two-game stretch the senior combined for 246 yards and 7 touchdowns on 52 carries, including a school-record tying 4 house calls against Miami.

The last of those four scores sealed the win against the Hurricanes and was ranked number 73 on TN’s Top 100 plays in FSU history.

Sammie Smith (1985-1988)

Hailing from Apopka, Florida, Smith was a multi-sport star in high school. He was the 4A state champion in the 100 and 220-yard dashes and was all-state in football. He was once timed in the 100-yard dash at a blazing 9.2 seconds. USA Today named him a high school All-American. All of that isn’t that unusual for high school sports. But what was unusual was Smith did it all at 6’2 while weighing 220 pounds, drawing comparisons to Herschel Walker. Smith had the speed of a sprinter and the body and mentality of a linebacker. And he played like it.

He redshirted his freshman year at FSU in 1985 under a medical hardship after suffering a stress fracture in his left leg against Nebraska. Despite sharing a backfield with Victor Floyd, Keith Ross, Dayne Williams and Dexter Carter, Smith started three games in 1986 including against the rival Florida Gators in the regular season finale and Indiana in the All-American Bowl.

After almost two seasons of struggling with injuries and trying to force things, Smith, finally healthy, broke out for a 62-yard touchdown run against Mississippi State. Then against the Gators Smith ran for 116 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown in a 13-17 losing effort, with a 52-yard touchdown called back by penalty. He ran all over the Hoosiers on New Year’s Eve to the tune of 205 yards and two touchdowns at an insane 8.2 yards per carry average. For his performance, he was named the bowl’s MVP. Despite a reserve role, Smith ran for over 800 yards and six touchdowns on the season and was named a 1st-team freshman All-American by Football News.

But tragedy struck before the 1987 football season, when Smith’s brother Corey was hit by a truck while riding a motorbike, suffering head and severe leg injuries. Sammie dedicated his upcoming season to his brother, telling him he would do the best he could for him.

That year Sammie was unstoppable, rushing for a then-school record 1,230 yards at a 7.2 yard per carry clip and seven touchdowns. He broke 100 yards rushing seven times, 140+ yards four times, and averaged over ten yards per carry twice. That includes an 83-yard run against East Carolina in a 244-yard effort and a 95-yard rush against Furman. He was ninth in the country in total rushing, averaging 123 rushing yards per game. For good measure he tacked on 21.3 yards per reception and two more touchdowns on just six catches. He helped lead FSU to an 11-1 record and the 1987 team is remembered as one of the greatest in school history, coming within one point vs. Miami of an undefeated season and a shot at a national title. Smith was named by the Associated Press as an honorable mention All-American.

Smith didn’t quite repeat his ‘87 performance in 1988, but he did rush for over 600 yards, including 115 against Auburn in the 1989 Sugar Bowl, repeating as bowl game MVP. After FSU once again finished 11-1 in 1988 (the first ever back-to-back top 5 finishes in school history), Smith was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the ninth overall pick of the 1989 NFL Draft. He played four seasons in the league, rushing for 1,881 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Chris Thompson (2009-2012)

Perhaps no running back in school history had a better comeback story than Chris Thompson. A local product out of nearby Madison County, Thompson arrived in Tallahassee in the final season of Bobby Bowden’s illustrious career. That year saw the diminutive Thompson, who wore 23 then, flash his next level explosiveness when he averaged 25 yards per kick return and also on a 49-yard scoring scamper against Georgia Tech. But it was really in his sophomore season when Jimbo Fisher took over head coaching duties when Thompson burst onto the scene. The 2010 season saw him finish with over 1,000 all-purpose yards, including three touchdowns of 70 yards or longer. One of those was a 90-yard explosion in Coral Gables that came one play after a long run was erased by a penalty.

Unfortunately for Thompson and FSU, his junior season ended prematurely when he suffered multiple compression fractures in his back against Wake Forest in the 5th game of the season. At the time, he wasn’t even sure if he would even walk again, let alone play football.

Thompson said, “I was in that hospital bed and so many thoughts went through my mind. I didn’t know if I wanted to play football again. I didn’t know if I was going to play again and I didn’t know if I was going to be walking straight.”

One year later he was back on the field showcasing the unconquered spirit of a Seminole, serving as the lightning to James Wilder’s thunder. Facing the same Wake Forest team where his career appeared in jeopardy, the senior rushed for 197 yards on just 9 carries, a staggering 21.9-yard average, adding two touchdowns. A week later, Thompson’s 182 all-purpose yards and two more touchdowns helped lead Florida State to a thrilling victory over the Clemson Tigers in a classic shootout.

Sadly, Thompson’s season was once again cut short, this time by a knee injury against Miami. Despite playing just 8 games, Thompson led the team in rushing with 687 yards on just 91 carries. His efforts not only earned him All-ACC second team, but also the Brian Piccolo award given annually to the “most courageous football player” in the ACC.

Even with the injuries, Thompson was drafted by the Washington Redskins with 154th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Leon Washington (2002-2005)

Leon Washington came to FSU as a 5-star with big expectations, but was initially able to learn from another player on this list- Greg Jones. While serving as a running understudy to Jones, Washington began his significant impact in the return game for the Seminoles. Washington subbed admirably as his rushing usage increased, laying the groundwork for future accolades.

He had his best season in 2004, rushing for 949 yards and seven touchdowns at a whopping 6.9 yards per rush, good for second nationally. That includes a 153-yard rushing performance against North Carolina followed by a 164-yard rumble against Syracuse the very next week. He finished that season off with an incredible 12-carry, 193-yard one-man January 1st show against West Virginia. Washington led the ’Noles to a 30-18 win and took home the Gator Bowl MVP award. His 16.3-yard per rush average is a single-game school record. Washington finished the season with 1,123 all-purpose yards and led the ACC in rushing. He was also named the team’s most valuable player and earned second-team All-ACC honors.

In all, Washington ran in the Garnet and Gold for 2,041 yards - the 10th player in FSU history to rush for 2,000 - and 12 touchdowns and caught 55 passes for 481 yards and a touchdown. He had 635 punt return yards and 709 kickoff return yards and two total touchdowns. Last but not least, he was the first player under Bobby Bowden to score in five different ways - by rush, reception, kick return, punt return, and fumble recovery.

Who are the top four running back in FSU history?

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