In this series, we’ll be highlighting a different player from the New York Jets’ storied past. Today, we take a look at running back Freeman McNeil.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 1981 NFL draft, McNeil enjoyed a stellar career at UCLA, earning all-conference honors twice for the Bruins. He wasted little time making a big impact for the Jets, leading the NFL in rushing yards in his second season.
A three-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler, McNeil spent all 12 of seasons of his NFL career with the Jets, topping 1,000-yards on the ground twice, in back-to-back seasons (1984-85). His 8,074 career rushing yards ranks second in franchise history, trailing only Hall of Famer Curtis Martin.
McNeil ranks fourth on the Jets’ all-time rushing touchdown list with 38, and his 144 games played ranks No. 1 among running backs in franchise history. Only six players have ever suited up for more games as a Jet.
McNeil’s 1985 campaign saw him rush for 1,331 yards, the fifth-highest single-season total in team history. He carried the ball nearly 1,800 times over his 12-year career, averaging an impressive 4.5 yards per carry.
One of the most recognizable faces in the long, storied history of one of the NFL’s most prestigious franchises, McNeil made ESPN’s list of top 50 Jets of all-time, coming in at No. 7. Indeed, few players have left such a footprint on Jets’ history quite like McNeil’s.
McNeil has remained connected to his former team long after retirement, most recently appearing on the red carpet for the team’s unveiling of new uniforms earlier this year.