Autry Denson is the Best Running Back in Notre Dame History

There have been plenty of great running backs to play for Notre Dame over the years. Of all those players, Autry Denson has been the best.

The next chapter of our “Best Players in Notre Dame History” series takes place in the offensive backfield. Like it is for most positions, it was not easy to decide who the best running back of all time is. However, I feel confident in my nomination.

Of all past and present Notre Dame running backs, the G.O.A.T. is Autry Denson.

I do not know if it is ironic, funny, or sad that I am writing this article during the same offseason that Autry Denson left the Irish coaching staff. It is probably a mix of all three.

After working for four years as Notre Dame’s running backs coach, Denson accepted an offer to become the head coach of Charleston Southern. As is almost always the case when a position coach or coordinator earns a head coaching job, the vast majority of fans, players, and staff members are happy for Coach Denson.

Now that we are all up to date on the coaching career of Autry Denson, let’s turn back the clocks and take a look at his career as a college football player.

Denson started his Notre Dame career in 1995. As a freshman, he earned a significant role in the offense. That season, he ran for 695 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

After his auspicious start, Denson did not slow down one bit. Over the next three seasons, he rushed for 1179, 1268, and 1176 yards respectively while scoring 39 total touchdowns (35 rushing, three receiving, one punt return).

Denson’s strong and consistent performance during his time in South Bend catapulted him all the way to the top of Notre Dame’s all-time list for career rushing yards — passing the likes of Vagas Ferguson and Allen Pinkett.

Autry Denson finished his collegiate career with 4,318 rushing yards, 432 receiving yards, 577 return yards and 47 total touchdowns.

His school record of 4,318 career rushing yards still stands today. That is not the only place you will find his name in the Notre Dame football record books, though. Denson also has two top 10 finishes in both single-season rushing yards (’96 and ’97 seasons) and single-season rushing touchdowns (’97 and ’98 seasons).

For those who champion the “eye test” and disregard statistics, I would recommend checking out some of Denson’s highlights from his Notre Dame career. He had elite vision and agility that made running and cutting look effortless for him.