Kentucky Football: Who are the top 5 best running backs in school history?

Jan 1, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; The Kentucky Wildcats celebrate after defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 2019 Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; The Kentucky Wildcats celebrate after defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 2019 Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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Kentucky Football
Benny Snell, Jr. of the Kentucky Wildcats /

Benny Snell is the best, and I won’t hear arguments to the contrary.

I may be biased because Benny Snell is probably my favorite Kentucky football player of all-time but I think the stats support the argument of him commanding number one on this list.

Forgive me for this probably being the most lengthy portion of this article, but I just love the guy. It’s also worth noting that most of Kentucky’s dominant backs outside of Moe Williams cemented their legacies long before I was even born.

Snell was a three-star recruit from Columbus Ohio, his lifelong dream was to suit up in an Ohio State backfield but when the Buckeyes felt they were too good for Snell that set forth the chain of events that motivated him to make them regret it every single time he got the ball.

That is one thing that makes Snell stick out to me and always will, he embodied everything that is the Kentucky football program.

Being constantly overlooked and having to work for everything good that comes your way. You can’t control how much God-given talent you have, but what you can control is working harder than everybody around you which is exactly what Snell did.

In 2016 as a Freshman Snell set the freshman rushing record, along with five other freshman records. He was also selected as a Freshman All-American and second-team All-SEC. Snell was able to accomplish things as a true freshman that hadn’t been seen much in Kentucky’s history.

As a sophomore Snell picked up right where he left off, he was the first player in UK history to amass 10  or more 100-plus yard games before being a junior. Snell also became the first player in Wildcat history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

He also became only the 19th player in SEC history to reach 2,000 yards, he was a big-time snub once again on post-season awards which motivated Snell even more.

In his junior season, Snell once again jumped clear over the bar he had set the previous two seasons and became one of only four players in SEC history to have back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

The other three being Herschel Walker, Darren McFadden, and Alex Collins. In Kentucky’s improbable Citrus Bowl victory Snell was able to break the 43-year record held by Sonny Collins for the most rushing yards in a career.

Snell is basically in the top 10 and near the top of every single rushing category that statisticians keep a record of at Kentucky.

At the SEC Media days in 2018, he was asked what sets him apart from other running backs in the SEC.

"“For me, my running game is very strong. I always try to make myself as good as I can off the field, whether its film, practice, or more reps. What separates myself from other running backs is that I am very durable. I can get 200+ carries and still be okay for the rest of season without any injury."

The most impressive thing about what Snell was able to do was the fact that he did it in three years.  Had he had a senior season with similar averages, or even higher it’s likely some would argue him the greatest running back in the history of the SEC.

I still personally think he’s in that conversation although the high and mighty power programs in the league who don’t respect Kentucky would probably argue otherwise.

Snell’s efforts landed him a spot in the NFL draft, being taken in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s having a pretty good career so far, much better than those who scouted him in high school could probably ever imagine. Kentucky knew what they were getting with Snell, they saw the diamond in the rough that he was. A kid starving to prove all those who doubted or said he wasn’t good enough wrong.

I know when the Cats needed a big play or just a few yards to get a first down that if the ball was in Snell’s hands it was automatic. I’ve not felt that way about maybe a handful of other Kentucky football players. I have no doubt one day that infectious grin will be back in Lexington when he’s immortalized forever in Kentucky’s Hall of Fame.

He wasn’t the biggest, nor the fastest but what he had was the heart of a champion. It was a pleasure to have him here and get to watch him play, and with that, I’ll “Snell” ya later.

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