If you had to name the four best running backs in the history of the San Francisco 49ers to represent the organization, which backs would you choose? Universally, Frank Gore is the top guy. The team’s all-time leader rusher is still productive in the NFL, despite being closer to 40 than he is 30. In ten seasons with San Francisco, Gore rushed for over 1,000 yards in eight of those seasons. Ultra productive, reliable, and arguably the best vision of any running backs during this generation makes Gore an easy selection.
After Gore is when the real debates begin, Hugh McElhenny is a Hall of Famer after spending nine seasons with the 49ers in the 1950s. Joe “The Jet” Perry was a member of the “Million Dollar Backfield” that included McElhenny. Perry is the Niners’ second all-time leading rusher and averaged an eye-popping 5.2 yards per carry. Perry was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969.
The next leading rusher in franchise history is some guy named Roger Craig, who played for San Francisco from 1983-90. Craig scored 50 touchdowns, had over 7,000 yards, and had over 4,400 yards receiving. Craig also made four Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team and was the AP Offensive Player of the Year in 1988.
Garrison Hearst has to make the list, right? Nostalgia is on Hearst’s side, as he had the infamous 96-yard touchdown run in overtime against the Jets. Hearst was a really good player, though. He ran for over 5,500 yards with the 49ers. Hearst was a fun player and made the game exciting, so he’d get my vote.
Here’s a fun fact: Steve Young is ninth in franchise history in rushing yards.
You have a few other notable names like Kevan Barlow, Ricky Watters, or Ken Williard. Who belongs on the Niners Mount Rushmore?