Hall Of Fame RB O.J. Simpson Dies At 76

O.J. Simpson died Thursday after a battle with prostate cancer, his family announced. He was 76. Simpson rose to prominence as a running back, broadcaster and actor before seeing his legacy irreparably altered upon being tried for murder. Simpson was acquitted on charges he killed his ex-wife and her friend but was later found liable in a civil trial.

One of the NFL’s greatest running backs, Simpson was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 1985. He played 11 NFL seasons — nine with the Bills, two with the 49ers — and was the first player to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a season. The former Heisman winner eclipsed the 2,000-yard barrier in 1973, when the NFL schedule remained at 14 games. He is the only player to have surpassed 2,000 in the 14-game era.

The No. 1 overall pick in 1969, Simpson became the centerpiece of the Bills’ offense for many years. Buffalo made the playoffs just once during Simpson’s nine-season tenure, losing a divisional-round game to eventual champion Pittsburgh in 1974, but its elusive back led the league in rushing four times from 1972-76.

While Simpson peaked with 2,003 rushing yards in 1973, he bettered his yards-from-scrimmage total from that season (2,073) with 2,243 in 1975. Simpson’s ’75 season included a career-high 23 touchdowns; despite his prolific stretch, Simpson only topped 10 TDs in a season twice. Simpson’s 141.3 rushing yards per game in 1973 remains the NFL single-season record; his 1975 scrimmage yards total stood as the NFL mark until Eric Dickerson broke it by a yard in 1984. Simpson joined Walter Payton as the first-team All-Decade running backs for the 1970s.

O.J. Simpson was the first player to reach a rushing mark many thought could not be attained in a 14-game season when he topped 2,000 yards,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. “His on-field contributions will be preserved in the Hall’s archives in Canton, Ohio.”

The Bills moved on from their workhorse back in 1978, sending Simpson — a San Francisco native — to the 49ers for a considerable haul. The 49ers sent the Bills a first-round pick, two second-rounders, a third and a fourth for the aging back. The first-rounder (a 1979 pick) became No. 1 overall. Moved to the 49ers at 31, Simpson battled multiple injuries with his second team and did not surpass 600 rushing yards in either of his San Francisco seasons. San Francisco had already sent three first-round picks for quarterback Jim Plunkett¬†under GM Joe Thomas in 1976; Thomas was out by 1979, leading to the Bill Walsh era.

Simpson’s NFL career became an afterthought following the events of 1994. A widely viewed June 1994 police chase ended with Simpson in custody; more than a year later, a jury found him not guilty in connection with the knife slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The 1997 civil case found Simpson liable and ordered a $33.5MM payment to Brown Simpson and Goldman’s families.

More than a decade later, a confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room involved two Simpson associates carrying guns. Simpson served nine years in prison for armed robbery, kidnapping and other felony charges.

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