Edgerrin James began incredible string of Miami Hurricanes running backs

Aug 7, 2021; Canton, Ohio, USA; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 7, 2021; Canton, Ohio, USA; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

New Pro Football Hall of Famer Edgerrin James began an incredible string of running backs for the Miami Hurricanes in the late 1990s through the mid-2000s. James Jackson and Clinton Portis shared carries at RB after James. Portis was the primary ball carrier on the 2001 Miami National Championship team.

When Portis left following the 2001 season, he was succeeded by Willis McGahee then future Pro Football Hall of Famer Frank Gore and eventually Jarrett Payton. Add fullback Najeh Davenport and Miami sent seven RBs to the NFL 1999 through 2005. James set the Miami single-season rushing yardage and touchdown records.

James ran for 1,416 yards and 17 TDs during the 1998 season. Included was a mesmerizing 299 rushing yards and three TDs in a 49-45 Miami upset of number three UCLA. James broke the single-game Miami rushing record he set earlier that season when he ran for 271 yards against Boston College.

Those performances are still the top two rushing yardage games in Miami Hurricanes history. Willie McGahee broke James’ single-season rushing yardage and TD records with 1,753 yards and 28 TDs in 2002. James is currently third all-time in the Miami record books in rushing yards and rushing TDs.


After James left for the 1999 NFL Draft, Jackson and Portis combined for 1,620 rushing yards and 17 TDs in 1999. Jackson became the primary ball carrier in 2000 with 1,006 yards and 11 TDs. Portis took over from Jackson in 2001 with 1,200 rushing yards, 11 TDs and 12 receptions for 125 yards and another TD.

Portis was one of the leaders on an explosive Miami offense. The consensus among college football analysts is that the 2001 Hurricanes had the most talented roster in history. Behind Portis were Gore, McGahee and Payton with Davenport blocking for them. Gore finished his Miami career with 1,975 rushing yards and 17 TDs.

Two torn ACLs hindered the career of Gore at Miami. Oft-injured in college, Gore has been one of the most durable RBs in NFL History. Gore currently is third all-time in rushing yards in NFL history behind Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Jarrett’s father, Walter. Gore finished his 16th season in 2020 and is presently a free agent.

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Payton ran for 1,496 yards and 10 TDs and added 28 receptions for 226 yards. Gore, James, McGahee and Portis all had legendary NFL careers. Davenport, Jackson and Payton all had time in the NFL. The RBs Miami had on their roster in the late 1990s through mid-2000s is nearly unprecedented in college football history.