Greatest Running Backs in Illinois History

CHAMPAIGN, ILL - The final position to be recognized with its 10 best players is led by perhaps the greatest player in collegiate football history. Harold "Red" Grange is often credited with being the first national football superstar and has been honored as the game's best ever player.

The remainder of the group, however, is made up of some of the most well-known players in Fighting Illini history. Record-setting 2007 Big Ten Player of the Year Rashard Mendenhall is the latest in a long line of great runners.

Joining those two on the list are hard-running Jim Grabowski, who finished third in the 1965 Heisman Trophy voting and Howard Griffith, who set an NCAA record with eight rushing touchdowns in a game in 1990. Robert Holcombe is Illinois' all-time leading rusher, while J.C. Caroline led the nation in rushing as a junior in 1953. Bobby Mitchell went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, while Buddy Young is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. John Karras was an All-American in the early 50s while Thomas Rooks helped lead the Illini to three bowl games in four seasons, including the 1983 Big Ten Championship and 1984 Rose Bowl appearance.

At the 2008 Illini football home opener on Sept. 6 against Eastern Illinois, the 10 greatest Fighting Illini from each position who played at Memorial Stadium will be recognized and introduced to the crowd. That game has been selected as the Memorial Stadium Renaissance Celebration following a 21-month, $120 million renovation project. The Running Back group is the last of eight different groups that were announced over the last two months, preceded by the Linebackers, Specialists, Receivers, Defensive Backs, Quarterbacks, Defensive Linemen and Offensive Linemen.

10 Greatest Fighting Illini Running Backs

J.C. Caroline, 1953-54

John Karras, 1949-51

Harold "Red" Grange, 1923-25

Rashard Mendenhall, 2005-07

Jim Grabowski, 1963-65

Bobby Mitchell, 1955-57

Howard Griffith, 1987-90

Thomas Rooks, 1982-85

Robert Holcombe, 1994-97

Buddy Young, 1944, 46

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