As a kid one my best friends was NFL films. I have revealed this countless times on various podcasts. This was not because I was a total booger eating loser. It was simply by choice. My downtime was spent listening to Steve Sabol’s pontificating intros of epic lore. John Facenda would poetically dialogue over top of the orchestral stylistics of Sam Spence. Little did I know, they were flaring up the dramatic muse inside of me.
Due to regional constraints I absorbed a lot 1970’s Minnesota Vikings highlights (and lowlights for that matter). That decade gave us the Purple People Eaters front-four. It also shined a medium light on two blue-collar bruiser RBs named Bill Brown and Dave Osborn. Finally, it featured the magnificent window of a fella by the name of Walter Eugene “Chuck” Foreman.
The 6’2”/210 pound Chuck Foreman was a five-time Pro Bowler who had six straight seasons with at least 1,145 scrimmage yards. If Foreman was entering the NFL now he would likely be considered the total package. He was an authentic breakaway back.
The College Years:
Perhaps what made Foreman’s rise through the pros so unique, was his inauspicious college career for the Miami Hurricanes. In the earlier 1970s the ‘Canes had yet to become the national powerhouse as they were known in the 80s. In fact, during Foreman’s three years in Miami, the team won a total of 12 games.
As a freshman Foreman had 59 touches for 299 yards and zero TDs. That was good for a five yards per touch average. Foreman also played a little defensive back throughout his career at Miami. During his sophomore campaign, the Hurricanes leaned on Foreman giving him 191 rushing attempts. He nearly broke 1,000-yard mark (951 total) and he found pay dirt with 10 TDs. Those were slightly encouraging numbers. However, Foreman had only 7 receptions for 72 yards. Not to mention they were several other RBs on better teams throughout the nation who eclipsed the 1,300-yard barrier.
His junior season saw him play both RB and WR. While in High School, Foreman caught the eye of the Hurricanes with his passing catching ability and the way he got through the teeth of the defense as a route runner. Thus a hybrid was born, or you could just call him a flanker. This was much like how Jaylen Samuels was used throughout his career at North Carolina State. Foreman rolled up 484 yards rushing on 107 attempts. He also contributed 37 receptions for 557 yards for a pretty unbelievable 15.1 yards per catch.
On to the Pros:
Foreman was a first round pick (12th overall), but he was the third RB selected. Foreman also had roughly half the rushing yards in his college career than that of the first RB taken (Otis Armstrong). His ascent at the pro level was pretty marvelous. His 1,163 yards from scrimmage (801 rushing and 362 receiving) earned him Offensive Rookie of the Year honors for 1973. He was somewhat dwarfed in the regular season by O.J. Simpson (2,003 yards rushing). Yet Foreman’s 12-2 Vikings made it all the way to Super Bowl VIII, only to lose to the Miami Dolphins.
During his second season, Foreman amassed the eighth most receptions (53) league-wide. He had 586 yards receiving and another 777 yards rushing. He also led the league with 15 total TDs. Once again, the Vikings made it to the Super Bowl (IX) and lost. Coincidentally, Foreman was considered a fullback during his first two seasons in the league. Even though he was the most successful and efficient back, he was still part of a committee.
Believe it or not, Foreman actually lead the league in receptions during the 1975 season. What is even more impressive is that Foreman was one of three Vikings inside the top 12 reception leaders during the 1975 and 1976 seasons. It was a different game back then, but Foreman’s 1,000-yard rushing ability allowed the passing game to thrive. His quarterback was future Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton. In both seasons, the Vikings rushed for over 2,000 yards and Tarkenton lead the league in passing attempts. It’s okay to say “wow,” out loud right about now.
That historic ‘75 season saw Foreman break the 1,000 yard mark (1,070 to be exact) for the first time. He turned that league-high reception total of 73 into 691 more yards. At the time, that reception total was an NFL record for RB catches in a season. Ten years later (1985) Roger Craig had 92 receptions in 16 games for the 49ers. Craig did so on his way to becoming the first running back to gain 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.
Foreman never led the league in rushing yards. In fact, his highest season total was 1,155 yards. He only received over 200 carries four times in his eight-year career. He did have back-to-back seasons with 1,700 scrimmage yards and 13 rushing TDs. That happened in the aforementioned 1975 and 1976 seasons. In addition to the 13 rushing TDs in the ‘75 season, Foreman also scored nine receiving TDs. Shockingly, those 22 TDs did not lead the league. Foreman did lead the league in TDs during the ‘76 season.
Foreman was one of the original all-purpose RBs. When he retired, Foreman was inside the top 10 all-time for yards from scrimmage. The late 1980s/early 1990s was of the true dawn for all-purpose backs. Guys like Roger Craig, Marcus Allen, Thurman Thomas and Marshall Faulk rewrote the record books. Nowadays, Foreman is 128th on that list.
Although Stickum was mostly legal back then (just ask Fred Biletnikoff!), Foreman had amazingly soft hands and he seemingly caught everything. Whether he was trapping the ball against his helmet or catching it in stride, he was an absolute wonder to watch! That stick-and-move foot action followed by his glorious spin move made his game so fun. Sure he wasn’t a “run you over” all-powerful back, but he was truly innovative and special.
Here in 2018, scouts may say he runs too high, or that he is not sudden or agile enough. However, for a handful of years, Foreman provided the horsepower that fed the Vikings offensive machine.