Steelers Hire James Saxon To Be New Running Backs Coach

The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t waste much time in replacing running backs coach Kirby Wilson as it was announced on Tuesday that former Minnesota Vikings running backs coach James Saxon will be joining the staff.

Here is Saxon’s bio from the Vikings website:

James Saxon is in his 3rd season coaching the Vikings RBs in 2013, looking to build off a 2012 season when Adrian Peterson re-wrote the NFL and Vikings record books en route to Associated Press NFL MVP honors. Peterson is only the 3rd Vikings player to garner the MVP, joining DT Alan Page in 1971 and Fran Tarkenton in 1975

Peterson’s remarkable 2012 season seemed unlikely when he suffered a severe knee injury to end the 2011 season at Washington (12/24/11). His comeback from the injury was as inspriational as it was groundbreaking. Peterson returned to the field for the season opener vs. Jacksonville (9/9) and ran for 2 TDs. Peterson ended the season with the 2nd-best rushing season in NFL history with 2,097 yards to garner NFL Offensive Player of the Year along with MVP honors. He matched his own team record with 10 games of 100+ yards and set a new NFL record for most rushing yards in a month when he went for 861 in December. He tied a pair of NFL records with 7 runs of 50+ yards , matching Barry Sanders in 1997 and had 7 games of 150+ yards , matching Earl Campbell’s mark from 1980. Peterson had a pair of 200-yard games to set a Vikings record and recorded a career-long with an 82-yard run.

Peterson’s record-setting season benefitted from the free agency addition of FB Jerome Felton, who enjoyed a career year by earning AP 2nd-Team All-Pro honors and a Pro Bowl berth for the 1st time in his 5-year career.

A former NFL RB himself, Saxon joined the Vikings in 2011 after spending time with the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and most recently the Miami Dolphins. Saxon has guided RBs to 9 Pro Bowls during his 13 seasons coaching the position and has had a RB break the 1,000-yard mark 7 times.

The Vikings running game continued to be one of the best in the NFL in 2011, as the team rushed for 2,318 yards, good for 4th in the League. Leading the team in rushing for a 5th-consecutive season was running back Adrian Peterson with 970 yards. Peterson set a team record for most rushing touchdowns in a career with 64, passing Chuck Foreman (52). He also scored at least 1 rushing touchdown in 6 straight games in 2011, a streak that is tied for second longest in team history. When Peterson was forced out of play by injuries, second-year running back Toby Gerhart filled in admirably, rushing for a career-high 531 yards and a touchdown on the season. He tied a franchise record when he recorded 2 receiving touchdowns in Week 15 vs. New Orleans. The following week in Washington, Gerhart scored his 1st rushing TD from 5 yards out.

While in Miami for the 3 seasons prior to joining the Vikings, Saxon tutored Pro Bowlers Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. In 2009, the Dolphins had the NFL’s 4th ranked rushing attack with 139.4 yards per game. Williams and Brown added a wrinkle into the Dolphins offensive game plan by using the Wildcat formation as a change-of-pace.  Williams posted 1,121 yard rushing to lead the team in 2009.

In Kansas City, Saxon found tremendous success with 3 of the franchises top backs. During Saxon’s 7 years in KC he helped 3 players (Priest Holmes, Tony Richardson and Larry Johnson) to 7 total Pro Bowls. Holmes and Johnson combined to break the 1,000-yard mark 5 times during his tenure. Holmes and Johnson are ranked #1 and #2 in Chiefs career yardage at 6,070 and 6,015 yards respectively and the duo have the top 4 single-season rushing yardage totals in franchise history- led by Johnson’s team-record 1,789 yards in 2006. Holmes holds the team mark for single-season TDs with 27 in 2003 and career TDs with 83 (76 rushing, 7 receiving). His 27 TDs set an NFL record at the time, which has since been topped. Holmes played his entire career, 2001-07, under Saxon with the Chiefs. Johnson set the franchise record for 100-yard rushing days with 30, edging Holmes’ 24.

Saxon entered the NFL in 2000 and was a running backs coach with the Buffalo Bills. Saxon spent time with Menlo College (1999) and Rutgers University (1997-98) before making the leap to the NFL.

Saxon entered the NFL in 1988 as a 6th round draft choice by the Kansas City Chiefs. Saxon would suit up for the Chiefs (1988-91), Miami Dolphins (1992-94) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1995) during his 8-year playing career. The South Carolina native played in 111 career games and rushed for 533 yards with 5 touchdowns on 145 attempts. Saxon added 69 receptions for 515 yards during his career.

Saxon began his collegiate career at American River Junior College in California (1984-85). He would go on to spend the final two seasons at San Jose State (1986-87) where he compiled 609 rushing yards adding 9 TDs on 118 carries. He also collected 78 receptions for 732 yards and 4 TDs. While with the Spartans for 2 seasons Saxon also managed to throw 4 TD passes.

He attended Battery Creek High School in Burton, South Carolina. Saxon is married to his wife Shannon and their son, Devin, played football at Harvard.

In essense, the Steelers traded running back coaches with the Vikings as that is where Wilson will coach in 2014.

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