Michigan State football: 15 greatest running backs in Spartans history

Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State Spartans. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State Spartans. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State Spartans. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images) /

Eric Allen is another great Michigan State running back who might get confused with another professional athlete of the same name. The other Eric Allen played cornerback in the NFL for 14 seasons for three different franchises, primarily with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he made five of his six career trips to the Pro Bowl. However, he played his college football at Arizona State, not Michigan State.

So what stands out about Michigan State’s Eric Allen, the guy who played running back for the Spartans from 1969 to 1971? Well, he was in a way ahead of his time as a dual-threat playmaker in the Michigan State backfield, able to both run and catch balls as a receiver.

After only getting 76 rushing attempts in 1969, Allen broke through in a big way in 1970. His increase in carries to 186 allowed him to amass 811 yards on the ground, as well as eight rushing touchdowns. He also had 10 catches for 125 yards and two trips to pay dirt as a receiver.

Building off what was a strong junior season in 1970, Allen put up spectacular numbers as a senior in 1971. He rushed for 1,494 yards on 259 carries for 18 touchdowns. This included a then-NCAA record of 350 rushing yards in a blowout victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. Allen finished 10th in Heisman Trophy voting that season.

After his time was done in East Lansing, Allen would be a fourth-round pick in the 1972 NFL Draft by the then-Baltimore Colts. However, Allen opted to play his professional ball in the CFL, spending four years with the Toronto Argonauts where he made the Eastern All-Star Team twice, once in 1972 and again in 1973. He’d be out of football after the 1975 CFL season.

Overall, Allen finished his Michigan State career with 521 carries for 2,654 yards and 28 touchdowns. Those totals have him firmly in the top 15 all time in Spartans rushing statistics with his 28 scores coming in at No. 9. Despite only playing in three seasons, Allen’s numbers have been able to stand the test of time thanks to a remarkable 1971 campaign before he left for Canada.