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The running backs: Emmitt Smith was in the Heisman top 10 twice for Gators

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Once, the first thing an opponent had to stop at the University of Florida was the featured running back.

Once, that wasn’t easy to do.

In those pre-Spurrier days, before the Fun ‘N Gun and the quarterbacks and all of those wide receivers, the Gators had a formidable running game featuring Emmitt and Errict and all the rest. Perhaps, in the years to come, the Gators will again.

What comes first? The return of the great quarterback or the return of the great running back?

At Florida, the hopeful answer is “both?”

Here we go then, in the week of the running backs at the Saint Petersblog. The top 10 Gator running backs:

10. Lorenzo Hampton (1981-1984): Hampton was one of an impressive stable of backs in the early 80s. He gained 1,993 yards and was a No. 1 draft pick of the Miami Dolphins.

9. Larry Smith (1966-1968): Smith gained 2,186 yards for the Gators and was the featured back in the mid-60s under Ray Graves.

8. Jimmy DuBose (1973-1975): DuBose gained 2,338 yards rushing. He was a second-round draft choice of the Bucs.

7. Tony Green (1974-1977): He totaled 2,694 yards for the Gators.

6. Percy Harvin (2006-2008): Yes, he was listed as a wide receiver. But Harvin ran for 1,852 yards in three years. A dangerous threat.

5. John L. Williams (1982-1985): A tough runner who gained 2,409 yards. A No. 1 draft pick of Seattle.

4. Neal Anderson (1982-1985): A very good running back who gained 3,234 yards for the Gators. A star for the Bears, who drafted him No. 1, for eight years.

3. Fred Taylor (1994-1997): Taylor gained 3,075 yards for the Gators. A No. 1 draft pick by Jacksonville.

2. Errict Rhett (1990-1993): The Gators top all-time rusher with 4,165 yards. A No. 2 draft pick of the Bucs.

1. Emmitt Smith (1987-1989): Smith finished in the Heisman’s top 10 twice in his three seasons. A No. 1 draft pick who starred with the Dallas Cowboys.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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