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The Giants’ Hall of Fame running back history

New York Giants halfback Frank Gifford on Sept.

New York Giants halfback Frank Gifford on Sept. 2, 1959. Photo Credit: AP

Should the Giants sign an aging future Hall of Fame running back?

Why not? That’s exactly what they did in their very first season more than 90 years ago.

Adrian Peterson, if he were to wind up playing for Big Blue, would not be the first running back to land in New York near the end of an already storied career. That honor belonged to none other than Jim Thorpe, then a 37-year-old who still was the biggest name in football. He signed to play for the Giants in 1925 to help bring attention to the new pro team in New York. He played three games before he was released and became one of the very first ex-Giants in history.

The Giants actually have quite a tradition when it comes to signing future Hall of Fame running backs late in their careers. In team history there have been only seven Giants running backs ever enshrined in Canton, and four of them came to New York in the twilight of those playing days.

Thorpe is one. Two years later they brought in Joe Guyon for the 1927 season (he caught the touchdown pass that gave the Giants their first NFL championship). Guyon had been playing pro football since 1920 and was a teammate in the backfield with Thorpe on various teams from 1919 to 1924.

In 1963, the Giants signed Hugh McElhenny, who had already had a Hall of Fame career with the 49ers as part of their “Million Dollar Backfield” and well as the Vikings. He stayed for one year in New York, and like Guyon, helped the Giants get to the championship game, before finishing his career in Detroit in 1964.

The other transient Hall of Fame running back for the Giants? Larry Csonka, who played in New York from 1976 to 1978 after a career with the Dolphins that included three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and coincided with three consecutive Super Bowl appearances. With the Giants, though, he never ran for more than 569 yards in any of his three seasons. He finished his career back in Miami where he had a better season in 1979 than any he’d had in New York, running for 837 yards and 12 touchdowns at the age of 33.

The three homegrown Giants running backs in the Hall of Fame?

Tuffy Leemans played for the Giants from 1936 to 1943, and Ken Strong was with the team from 1933 to 1935, again in 1939, and finally from 1944-47. And the last Hall of Fame running back the Giants actually produced was Frank Gifford, who played for the team from 1952 to 1964 (minus the 1961 season when he temporarily retired due to injury). The Giants reached the NFL championship game five times during Gifford’s tenure, winning it in 1956.

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