PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Darren Sproles won’t admit it. He’s too modest. Sure, the Eagles’ mighty-mite and elder statesman is about to enter his 13th—and last—NFL season.
No one who watches the game would ever dispute the fact that the 5-foot-6, 190-pound running back has defied every odd to make it to “the league,” let alone last this long.
But Sproles isn’t thinking too far ahead to possibly being in the Hall of Fame one day.
One look at Sproles’ overall body of work throughout his remarkable career places him in the argument when candidates for the 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame class are discussed, when you consider Sproles is: The only player in NFL history to produce 30-plus receiving TDs (30), 20-plus rushing TDs (22), one kickoff return TD (2) and one punt return TD (7); one of eight players in NFL history have 30-plus receiving TDs and 20-plus rushing TDs, joining Brian Westbrook (2001-10), Marshall Faulk (1994-2005), Keith Byars (198698), James Brooks (1981-92), John David Crow (1958-68), Lenny Moore (1956-67) and Frank Gifford (1952-64); one of two players in NFL history with 500-plus receptions (525), 500-plus rush attempts (671) and 500-plus kickoff and punt returns (620), joining Eric Metcalf (541 receptions, 630 rush attempts, 631 kickoff and punt returns from 1989-2002).
Currently, Sproles leads all active NFL players and ranks 8th all-time with 19,011 all-purpose yards, trailing only Jerry Rice (23,546, 1985-2004), Brian Mitchell (23,330, 1990-2003), Walter Payton (21,803, 1975-87), Emmitt Smith (21,564, 1990-2004), Tim Brown (19,682, 1988-2004), Marshall Faulk (19,190, 1994-2005) and Steve Smith Sr. (19,180, 2001-16). Plus, Sproles is one of only seven players in NFL history to record 1,000-plus all-purpose yards in 11-plus straight seasons, joining Emmitt Smith (13, 1990-2002), Frank Gore (11, 2006-16), Marshall Faulk (11, 1994-2004), Brian Mitchell (11, 1993-2003), Tim Brown (11, 1992-2002) and Jerry Rice (11, 1986-96).
His body of work is in special company.
“I love the guy, Sproles was one of my sleepers coming out of Kansas State,” said Hall of Famer, Ray Didinger. “He’s one of my favorite players who’s had a marvelous career. I don’t think a Hall of Famer, though. You can make the argument for him. But I think he’s kind of a niche player, who I would compare with as a Hall of Fame candidate to Brian Mitchell.
“I think that they are very similar in that respect. They’re very good at what they do. I just don’t know if that translates to the Hall of Fame. That would be my feeling about it. Sproles has been very versatile, an outstanding special teams’ player, and has had a much longer career than even I thought he was going to have. He’s played into a second decade in the NFL—so he’s been all of that. I just don’t know if that translates into the Hall of Fame.”
As for Sproles, he’s trying to absorb as much as he can from his final NFL season. He’s not thinking that far ahead to the Hall of Fame.
“I don’t think like that, I’m just focusing right now on making plays,” Sproles said. “I want to really enjoy this year. I’m going to soak more in, and enjoy everything, having fun with the guys. I feel like things have come around for me, because it was just yesterday where I was the one asking all of the questions, and now the young guys come and ask me.
“I want to be there for them. Times flies, because it wasn’t that long ago I was one of them. This year is about enjoying myself and in the end, be there for my kids and maybe one day coach them. My oldest runs track, and my youngest can run. The one thing I would like to close my career with is a ring. But my first goal is for this team to make it to the playoffs.”
“I’ve had a great career. I’m not done yet. I want to put together a great season. We have some good pieces here to do it.”