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Wednesday, October 23
Brown, Payton NFL's best running backs

Who is the best running back of all time?

Sean Salisbury
Walter Payton
Walter Payton's success was more about his mind and his heart than his muscle. He's as phenomenal a running back as there ever was, and he's one of the best people ever to put on a uniform. Payton was as humble an athlete as you'll ever be around, and teammates loved to be around him. He wasn't a speed-burner, but he had enough speed to beat you. His toughness was remarkable. Payton never went out of bounds -- he looked you up. What's perhaps most amazing about his record is that for many years he played behind a less-than-stellar line on less-than-stellar teams. Payton's training regimen was second to none. God rest his soul, he's certainly missed. If you want to know how to play football like a gentleman, and how to play with heart, intelligence and guts, all you have to do is watch videotape of No. 34 running the football. There were some who may have caught or blocked better, but Payton did everything. He was unselfish, which is hard to find these days.

Mark Schlereth
Jim Brown
Jim Brown was the first running back with the size-and-speed combination. He had the ability to break long gains with his speed at any time and from any place on the field. Some backs could break one from 40 or 50 yards, but with his speed, he could break one from anywhere. Brown is the yardstick by which every other running back is measured. He set the bar as far as power and his ability to run over people and his nasty attitude. He brought the power and intimidation game to the running-back position. I don't think anyone before or since -- Earl Campbell would be the closest -- has had such a combination of size, power, speed and quickness. He encompassed all of those virtues and packaged it in one running back. I didn't grow up watching him play, but judging by the highlights on ESPN Classic, he must have been one of the most feared men to play against in the NFL.

Andrea Kremer
Jim Brown
In nine short seasons, the impact Jim Brown made on the league and in the record books is insurmountable. Culminated with his unique decision to walk away from the game while still in his prime, Brown's ability to amass great numbers in short career, defines his greatness on the field. A bulldozing force, Brown ran over people. If he played today, I still believe he'd be a dominant back.

Mark Malone
Jim Brown
First of all, any time you compare guys from different eras, you're charting dangerous territory. But from a physical standpoint, no one could take over a game like Jim Brown. He was just so physical, with great speed and strength -- it always took several players to tackle him. Though comparatively his career was short, he was still far and away the most dominant running back. Brown stands out to me as a running back before his time. He had great speed and was so punishing. Today's style of football looks for more versatile, Marshall Faulk-type backs who can run and catch. Brown wasn't asked to catch the ball often, but he was more physical than most linebackers and defensive linemen of his era. As great or as flashy as other backs may be -- and despite the numbers they post or the time span they played -- none were more productive or dominant than Jim Brown.

Merril Hoge
Walter Payton
Pound-for-pound, Walter Payton was the best, most complete back ever to play the game. Payton did more with less than any running back in NFL history. For the first eight or nine years of his career, opponents had one objective: stop Walter Payton. His proven durability -- he missed only one game in 13 years -- puts him in a special category. I played the position for 10 years, and I know that it's the most brutal position in football. No other position can compare. Payton missed only one game. He produced, and he never took a lick -- instead, he delivered hits. He believed in delivering and giving everything he had on every play. You never saw Payton stand there and take a hit. He dove and finished every run. He took people out for two-inch gains; he always finished runs and always delivered the blow.

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