O.J. Simpson's NFL Career:
Unlike many of the NFL's greatest running backs of all time
, success didn't come immediately for O.J. Simpson despite putting together a Heisman Trophy-winning final season at the University of Southern California. In fact, he didn't become the focal point of the offense until several years into his NFL career even though he had led all of college football in rushing yards the two years prior to being drafted.
The first overall pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 1969 NFL Draft, Simpson finally got his chance to shine when the Bills brought in Lou Saban as head coach in 1972. Saban quickly saw the value in making Simpson a workhorse back his offense could lean on. And after having posted a modest career high of 183 carries in his third season, Simpson carried the ball an average of 302 times over the next five seasons.
In his first year under Saban, Simpson posted 1,251 yards on the ground; a very solid showing over the course of a 14-game schedule. However, he exploded in 1973 with perhaps the best season any running back has ever had by becoming the first to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark on the ground. Averaging six yards per carry, he racked up 2,003 rushing yards, making him the only back to surpass 2,000 yards in a 14-game season. And despite the fact that several other backs have reached that mark in a single season, Simpson is still the only tailback to reach the milestone in just 14 games.
Because of his record-setting performance in '73, Simpson was named NFL MVP
and Offensive Player of the Year
. He also earned the Bert Bell Award and went on to be named Pro Bowl MVP. He was also named the Associated Press's Male Athlete of the Year.
Simpson's touches and total yards dropped off in 1974, but he bounced back with more than 1,800 yards rushing, 426 yards receiving, and a then-record 23 touchdowns the following season. He then finished off an incredible five-year stretch with 1,503 yards in 1975.
Injury cut Simpson's 1977 season in half, and before the 1978 season the Bills traded him to San Francisco for a second round draft pick. He spent two rather unspectacular seasons with the 49ers before announcing his retirement following the 1979 season.
Simpson left the game second all time to Jim Brown in rushing yards with 11,236. He posted the most 200-yard games by any back ever with six. He was named NFL Player of the Year in 1972, 1973 and 1975. He was named All Pro every year from 1972 through 1976, and he played in six Pro Bowls.
In 1985, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Even before his playing days ended, Simpson was laying the groundwork for a career in acting by making an appearance in the television mini-series Roots
. He also played roles in numerous movies, including The Towering Inferno
, the Naked Gun
trilogy, and The Cassandra Crossing
He also landed many endorsement deals, the most memorable being a series of commercials promoting Hertz rental car company along side golfing great Arnold Palmer. Simpson also worked as a commentator for Monday Night Football and was also a part of The NFL on NBC.
Unfortunately, as great of a football player as O.J. Simpson was, he will probably always be remembered most for the legal problems he faced later in life. Accused of murdering his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson
and her friend Ron Goldman, Simpson would ultimately be acquitted after a highly-publicized trial
that captured the attention of the entire nation.
Despite a not-guilty verdict on both murders, many believed that Simpson was indeed responsible for the deaths. And a civil court later agreed, finding him liable in a wrongful death trial. Simpson was ordered to pay $33,500,000 in damages.
Simpson had several other brushes with the law following his murder trial, the most serious of which ultimately landed him in prison. In September 2007, Simpson, along with a group of men, forced their way into a room at the Palace Station hotel-casino in Las Vegas and took sports memorabilia at gunpoint. Simpson admitted to taking the items, which he said belonged to him, but denied that he or anyone else was in possession of a gun.
Simpson, however, was arrested shortly after and charged with criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, robbery, and using a deadly weapon.
Simpson was found guilty of all charges in October of 2008, and in December was sentenced to 33 years in prison. He is currently serving his sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada.
Orenthal James Simpson - July 9, 1947 - San Francisco, California
Drafted: The Buffalo Bills selected O.J. Simpson No. 1 overall in the 1969 NFL Draft.
Years Played: 1969-1979
Position Played: Running Back
Uniform Number: 32
Nickname: The Juice
Played For: Buffalo Bills (1969-77), San Francisco 49ers (1978-79)
Alma Mater: University of Southern California
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: 1985
O.J. Simpson's greatest season came in 1973 when he rushed for 2,003 yards. He was the first running back to surpass the 2,000-yard mark and the only one to do it in a 14-game season.
AP and UPI College Athlete of the Year (1968)
Heisman Trophy winner (1968)
Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1983)
Career NFL stats
Rushing - 2,404 Carries for 11,236 Yards and 61 Touchdowns
Receiving - 203 Receptions for 2,142 Yards and 14 Touchdowns
NFL Most Valuable Player (1973)
First player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season (1973)
Won Four NFL Rushing Titles (1972,73,75,76)
Named All-Pro Five Straight Years (1972-76)
Named to Six Pro Bowls
Pro Bowl Player of the Game (1973)
Inducted into the Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame (1991)