No. 3: Joe Perry
Fletcher Joseph Perry, better known as Joe “The Jet,” was a San Francisco 49er from 1948 through 1960, amassing 10,194 total yards, 8,689 of that rushing the ball and 79 touchdowns with the team.
Perry was also a part of the infamous “Million Dollar Backfield,” becoming one of football’s first African American bona fide stars. He also made history by becoming the NFL’s first African American to be named MVP in 1954.
San Francisco 49ers
“The Jet” also made three straight Pro Bowl appearances and was a three-time All-Pro for the 49ers.
In his first two seasons with the 49ers (who were a part of the AAFC) Perry lead the league in rushing touchdowns and also finished first in rushing in 1949.
Once the AAFC was absorbed by the NFL before the 1950 season, Perry continued performing well, finishing as the fifth leading rusher in 1950 and 1951.
With McElhenny coming to the team via the 1952 Draft, the “Million Dollar Backfield” earned their nickname by finishing third and fourth in the league in rushing.
Perry went on to become the first player to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, and even with sharing carries out of the backfield with Hugh McElhenny and John Henry Johnson, Perry led the league in rushing once again in 1954.
The added significance of breaking through racial barriers at a time when African American players were seen as more of a novelty rather than impact players can not be overstated.
And while the team never won a championship, Perry’s legacy not only with the 49ers, but with the history of the NFL as well, puts him third on our list.