Born: June 20, 1983 (Waterloo, Iowa)
Graduated: Olathe North High School, 2000 / Kansas State University, 2004
Darren Sproles was born to play football. He is among the greatest, most productive running backs to come from a Kansas high school or college, along the likes of Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers and John Riggins.
Sproles played high school football at Olathe North, where he ran for 5,230 yards while averaging 8.4 yards per carry with 79 career touchdowns. In 2000, his senior year, he ran for a staggering 2,485 yards and scored 49 touchdowns. As a result, he was named The Kansas City Star Player of the Year, the second time he won the honor, a Student Sports Magazine high school All-American and the USA Today Kansas Player of the Year.
After his prolific high school career, Sproles went to Kansas State to play football for the Wildcats. After being a backup as a freshman, Sproles’ role on the team expanded greatly as a sophomore, leading the Wildcats in rushing yards (1,465), scrimmage yards (1,564), all-purpose yards (1,800) and touchdowns (17). The Wildcats improved from 6-6 in Sproles’ freshman year to 11-2 in his sophomore year and finished the season ranked as the seventh-best team in college football.
In his junior year, Sproles took his game to the next level. Sproles had 1,986 rushing yards, which was the most in college football, while scoring 19 total touchdowns. This remarkable season included an incredible 323-yard performance against top-ranked Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game. Kansas State would finish 11-4 on the season with a final ranking of 14th. Sproles finished fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy, given to the best player in college football.
As a senior, Sproles capped off his time with the Wildcats with 1,541 scrimmage yards, 526 return yards and 11 total touchdowns. In a game against Louisiana-Lafayette, Sproles ran for 292 yards, breaking his own school record for single game rushing yards. It still remains a school record at the time of his induction. Sproles also holds the school record for career rushing yards with a total of 4,979 yards, nearly 2,000 more yards than the second most.
After his career at Kansas State, Sproles was drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. As a member of the Chargers, Sproles had a total of 1,342 rushing yards, 1,627 receiving yards, 1,042 punt return yards, 7,006 kick return yards and 25 touchdowns. Sproles remains the Chargers’ all-time kick return yardage leader.
After his fifth season with the Chargers, Sproles signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency and he made an immediate impact. In 2011, Sproles broke the NFL’s single-season all-purpose yardage record, gaining 2,696 yards across his rushes, receptions, punt returns and kick returns. In three seasons with the Saints, Sproles had 1,152 rushing yards, 2,196 receiving yards, 2,795 return yards and 25 total touchdowns.
The final six seasons of Sproles’ playing career was with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2014 to 2019, where he gained 1,347 rushing yards, 1,494 receiving yards, 1,410 return yards and 21 total touchdowns. Sproles won a Super Bowl title with the Eagles in 2017, his twelfth season in the NFL. Sproles announced his retirement following the ending of the 2019 NFL season on December 21, 2019.
Sproles finished his career with 3,850 rushing yards, 5,317 receiving yards, 3,131 punt return yards, 9,122 kick return yards and 71 total touchdowns in his fourteen seasons in the NFL. Some of the remarkable career achievements he has include the record for the most all-purpose yards in a season in NFL history (2,696 in 2011), being named to the NFL’s 2010’s All-Decade Team and being the only player in NFL history to have at least 2,200 all-purpose yards in four different seasons (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).
Please welcome Darren Sproles to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
By: Sam Hays