There was a time when Texas Tech football was known more for its ability to produce running backs than for its ability to produce quarterbacks and receivers. That was during the Spike Dykes era when defense and the ground game were the Red Raiders’ calling cards.
No Tech player from that era had more collegiate success than running back Byron Hanspard. In fact, he is still considered the best running back to ever don the Double T.
Playing for Tech from 1994-96, he was a star in the Southwest Conference. In fact, after rushing for over 2,000 yards as a junior, he would win the Doak Walker Award given to the nation’s top running back. He would also finish sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
Hanspard was a unanimous All-American in 1996, making him just the third in program history at the time. Additionally, his 2,084 yards that season are over 300 more than anyone else in Red Raider history has ever run for in one season.
The DeSoto, Texas native still sits atop Tech’s career rushing list with 4,219 yards, a number that may never be broken given how the passing game has supplanted the ground game as the preferred means of moving the ball in West Texas.
Unfortunately, injuries prevented Hanspard from having the same impact in the NFL. A promising rookie campaign saw him amass 1,375 total yards (with most of that coming as a kickoff returner) but in training camp of his second NFL season, he suffered a knee injury that essentially ended his career (though he would try to make a comeback, he was never the same explosive runner as he was before the injury).
Still, his collegiate exploits might be enough to someday put his name in the Ring of Honor. He was the focal point of three Texas Tech bowl teams including the 1994 team that won a share of the Southwest Conference crown and played in the Cotton Bowl. In all, his teams would go 22-14 over his three years and though we usually only attribute team wins to head coaches and QBs, we should consider Tech’s success during that time as part of Hanspard’s legacy because he was easily the team’s best offensive player.
So while Hanspard’s name might not be as popular with Texas Tech fans of today as it was with Red Raiders in the 90s, he still is one of the greatest to ever play for the Red Raiders. Thus, we could one day see his name next to Mahomes’ in the Ring of Honor.