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How 2 former BYU running backs can make history in the NFL this weekend

Jamaal Williams and Tyler Allgeier are both nearing 1,000-yard rushing seasons

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Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams (30) is introduced before an NFL football game, Jan. 1, 2023.

Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams (30) is introduced before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Detroit, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023.

Paul Sancya, Associated Press

BYU’s track record for churning out pro-level running backs isn’t exactly great.

In recent years, though, it’s gotten much better, and heading into the final week of the NFL regular season, two former Cougars running backs are chasing history.

Both the Detroit Lions’ Jamaal Williams and the Atlanta Falcons’ Tyler Allgeier could become the first two former BYU running backs to run for 1,000 yards in an NFL season in their teams’ respective games on Sunday.

How close is Jamaal Williams to 1,000 yards rushing?

Williams needs just six rushing yards against his former team, Green Bay (Sunday, 6:20 p.m. MST, NBC), to reach the 1,000-yard mark. 

Heading into the regular-season finale at the Packers, he has 246 carries for 994 yards and an NFL-leading 15 rushing touchdowns.

If he reaches 1,000 rushing yards, Williams, who is set to become a free agent in March, will earn a $250,000 bonus, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.

Williams would become the first Lion to run for 1,000 yards in a season since Reggie Bush in 2013.

Williams already holds the record for rushing yards in a season by a former BYU running back at the NFL level — in 2021, he ran for a then career-best 601 yards in his first season in Detroit.

He is coming off a career-high 144-yard rushing game in a win over Chicago, and has rushed for over 100 yards twice this season.

There’s more at stake, too — both Green Bay and Detroit are still alive for a wild-card playoff spot.

“I’d be happy just to get 1,000 no matter who we play,” Williams told the Detroit Free Press. “But it’s more important about us just getting a dub and that’s really what I want from us is just to go out there in Lambeau and get a (win).”

What other record could Jamaal Williams set?

With 15 rushing touchdowns, Williams is one short of the Lions’ single-season rushing touchdowns record, set by Hall of Famer Barry Sanders in 1991.

Williams has five multi-touchdown games this season, including three in a win over the New York Giants in late November.

Williams has just one rushing touchdown over the last month, though, and it’s been seven weeks since he had a multi-touchdown game.

“It’d make me a good running back, I guess,” Williams told the Detroit Free Press about potentially tying or breaking Sanders’ record. “I mean, Barry’s a great running back so I’ve been watching him for — on YouTube; I wasn’t here to watch him, but watching him on YouTube. ... (He’s) a legend, so I’m just grateful for that opportunity, to be able to be in there with somebody like that.”


Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier (25) runs against the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL football football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Atlanta.

Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier (25) runs against the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL football football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Atlanta.

John Bazemore, Associated Press

How close is Tyler Allgeier to 1,000 yards rushing?

Allgeier hitting the century mark is less certain — he needs 100 rushing yards in the Falcons’ season finale against Tampa Bay (Sunday, 11 a.m.) to reach the 1,000 yards for the year.

Allgeier has 186 carries for 900 yards and three rushing touchdowns in his rookie season.

He has rushed for 50 yards or more for six straight weeks, and 70 or more each of the past three games, including an 83-yard effort last week in a win over Arizona.

Allgeier has only one 100-yard game this season — he ran for 139 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in Week 15, though he also had a 99-yard rushing effort in Week 9. 

He has 483 rushing yards after first contact this season, sixth-best in the NFL, and his 2.6 yards after contact per rush leads the NFL, according to ESPN.

“Just probably not being tackled by one guy,” Allgeier told ESPN, talking about his mentality as a runner. “Always had that mindset as a kid. Not one guy can freaking tackle me.

“Just translated it and now translated it to the NFL.”

What record could Tyler Allgeier set?

Allgeier could also set the Falcons’ rookie rushing record, if he rushes for 124 yards against the Buccaneers.

William Andrews set the record by rushing for 1,023 yards in 1979.

Allgeier already became just the fourth Atlanta rookie to amass more than 1,000 scrimmage yards in his first season, per the NFL.com staff.

He has 1,039 scrimmage yards heading into Sunday — that includes 16 receptions for 139 yards and one touchdown. That’s the most scrimmage yards from a Falcons rookie in more than 40 years. 

Allgeier would need a herculean type effort to set the Atlanta rookie record for scrimmage yards in a season, though. 

Andrews, who was a four-time Pro Bowler, set that mark in 1979 with 1,332, meaning Allgeier would need 294 yards from scrimmage to pass Andrews.

Fellow rookie Desmond Ridder, the team’s new starting quarterback, praised Allgeier following their most recent win.

“Tyler’s a workhorse,” Ridder said, per the team’s website. “His balance is wild. For him to be able to get the ball and then make one guy miss and then get hit by two or three guys but still be up, it’s something that I haven’t seen before. It’s a credit to him and a credit to the guy’s up front and moving their guys.”