The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were blessed with two very good backs during their 2002 NFL season, which marked their glory days and Super Bowl championship. However, only one of those two were included in this list of three best running backs in franchise history.
Another honorable mention left off the list, after much deliberation, was two-time Pro Bowler Doug Martin. Martin possesses the third-most rushing touchdowns and fourth-most rushing yards, but just fell off the top three.
Here are the three best running backs in Buccaneers history.
3. Warrick Dunn (1997-2001, 2008)
Warrick Dunn, a 5-foot-9 running back and standout with upstate’s Florida State Seminoles, was the Buccaneers’ 12th overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft. Dunn shot out of the gates for Tampa Bay, winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and becoming a Pro Bowler in his debut season with the Bucs.
Dunn spent the first five seasons of his professional tenure in a Buccaneers uniform, rushing for over 1,000 yards twice in that span along with 26 total touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
After spending six years with the Atlanta Falcons (with whom he’s a minority stake owner today), Dunn returned to his original NFL franchise in 2008, appearing in 15 games and rushing for over 750 yards, later retiring.
Dunn, today, is third on the franchise’s leaderboard for rushing yards and seventh in rushing touchdowns.
2. James Wilder (1981-89)
Going old school, the under-appreciated running back James Wilder spent nine seasons with the Buccaneers, eventually becoming the team’s leading rusher in franchise history—a feat that stands to this day.
The Bucs took Wilder, a Missouri product, in the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-3 fullback/running back combo only rushed for 370 yards in his debut season (catching 507 yards, too), but after a few years learning the ropes at the world’s top level of football, Wilder became an indelible part of Tampa Bay’s backfield.
Wilder rushed for 1,544 yards in 1984, earning his first (and only) Pro Bowl selection, along with scoring 13 touchdowns on the ground that year, and the next season rushed for 1,300. By then, Wilder engrained himself as a consistent ball-carrier in the backfield for the Bucs.
Wilder spent the 1990 season with Washington and Detroit before retiring that year. He’s second in the franchise’s history in rushing touchdowns and once (now broken) held the NFL record for carries in a single game (43).
1. Mike Alstott (1996-2006)
The greatest (running) back in Buccaneers history goes to fullback Mike Alstott, the most decorated backfield playmaker in the franchise’s history.
Alstott, a standout during his upperclassmen years at Purdue, was selected by Tampa Bay in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft and became a Pro Bowler in just his second year in the league (setting off a string of six consecutive selections).
A three-time All-Pro First Team member, Alstott led the team in rushing touchdowns during their fateful Super Bowl run in 2002, later scoring the only rushing TD in Super Bowl XXXVII between both squads.
Alstott spent his entire 12-year NFL career with the Bucs, in that time racking up quite a lot of touchdowns—58 in total—the most in franchise history. He also stands as the second leader in team rushing yards at a tad over 5,000 in the fullback’s career.
Alstott’s six Pro Bowl selections is the clear leader in franchise history for an offensive player (twice as many as current star wide receiver Mike Evans, who may one day surpass the legend). Alstott is also honored by Tampa Bay as a member of Raymond James Stadium’s Ring of Honor, added in 2015.