(Courtesy of Kansas State Athletics)
MANHATTAN, Kan. – One of the most electrifying all-purpose running backs in the early 2000s, Kansas State’s Darren Sproles has been selected to the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2021.
Sproles is the sixth K-State player or coach to be selected to college football’s highest honor and the third in the last 10 years. He joins former linebackers Gary Spani (Class of 2002) and Mark Simoneau (Class of 2012), as well as coaches Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf (Class of 1966), Charles Bachman (Class of 1978) and Bill Snyder (Class of 2015).
Joining Sproles as players in the Class of 2021 are Harris Barton (OT, North Carolina), David Fulcher (DB, Arizona State), Dan Morgan (LB, Miami), Carson Palmer (QB, USC), Tony Romo (QB, Eastern Illinois), Kenneth Sims (DT, Texas), C.J. Spiller (RB/KR, Clemson), Aaron Taylor (OT, Notre Dame), Andre Tippett (DE, Iowa) and Al Wilson (LB, Tennessee). Coaches selected for enshrinement are Rudy Hubbard (Florida A&M) and Bob Stoops (Oklahoma).
Of the 5.47 million individuals who have played college football since Princeton first battled Rutgers on Nov. 6, 1869, only 1,027 players and 221 coaches have been immortalized in the Hall. In other words, only two one-hundredths of a percent (.02%) of those who have played or coached the game have earned this distinction.
The 2021 College Football Hall of Fame Class will be officially inducted during the 63rd NFF Annual Awards Dinner on December 7, alongside the 2020 Hall of Fame Class as this season’s event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A 2003 First Team All-American and three-time All-Big 12 performer, Sproles held 28 school records at the time of graduation, 21 of which still stand 16 seasons after his playing days. The Olathe, Kansas, product rushed for 4,979 career yards, which ranks third in Big 12 history and is nearly 2,000 yards more than any other player in K-State history. Sproles, who finished fifth in the 2003 Heisman Trophy voting and third in the Associated Press Player of the Year voting that same season, was a three-time All-American.
Sproles played on some of the most memorable teams in K-State history as the Wildcats went 22-6 over his sophomore and junior seasons, including the 2003 campaign when Kansas State won its first Big 12 Championship with a 35-7 upset over top-ranked Oklahoma.
Sproles hold three of the top five marks for single season rushing yardage in school history, including the top mark of 1,986 yards in 2003. An accomplished receiver and returner, Sproles is also the school’s career record holder for all-purpose yards (6,812) thanks to 2,735 yards in 2003, also the top total in school history for a season. His career all-purpose yardage total ranked fifth in NCAA history at the time of his departure, while his 2003 output was fourth.
Following his time in Manhattan, Sproles enjoyed a 16-year NFL career with the then-San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.
A fourth-round pick by San Diego in 2005, Sproles became an instant fan favorite, eventually setting the Chargers’ franchise record for career kickoff-return yards. In 2011 with the Saints, Sproles set the NFL single-season record for all-purpose yardage at 2,696 yards, a record that still stands.
Sproles finished his career with six years in Philadelphia, earning three Pro Bowl selections and earning a Super Bowl Ring following the 2017 season. He retired following the 2019 season, and he ranks sixth in NFL history in career all-purpose yardage with 19,696 yards.
A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade Team for the 2010s, Sproles was also named to the San Diego Chargers’ 50th Anniversary Team, was selected to K-State’s Ring of Honor in 2015 and will be enshrined in the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame this fall.