July 29, 2012

Rookie of the Year: Rueben Mayes, 1986


Running Back, New Orleans Saints



Age: 23
College: Washington State
Height: 5’11”  Weight: 201

Prelude:
Lightly regarded coming out of college, Mayes was taken in the third round of the 1986 NFL draft as one of three running backs that the team took with its five available picks in the first three rounds, behind Dalton Hilliard. Nevertheless, the Canadian native moved past Hilliard and into the starting lineup in Week 5. Despite an Achilles tendon injury that nagged him all year, he proved to be a surprise star with his quick acceleration.

1986 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 286 [7]
Most attempts, game - 33 (for 157 yds.) vs. New England 11/30
Yards – 1353 [4]
Most yards, game – 203 yards (on 28 carries) vs. Miami 12/7
Average gain – 4.7 [3]
TDs – 8 [10, tied with five others]
200-yard rushing games – 1
100-yard rushing games – 6

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 17       
Most receptions, game – 3 (for 7 yds.) vs. Washington 10/5
Yards – 96
Most yards, game - 25 (on 2 catches) vs. New England 11/30
Average gain – 5.6
TDs – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 10
Yards – 213
Most yards, game – 55 (on 3 ret.) vs. Green Bay 9/14, (on 2 ret.) at Atlanta 12/14
Avg. – 21.3
TDs – 0
Longest return – 34 yards

All-Purpose yards – 1662 [7]

Scoring
TDs – 8
Points – 48

Awards & Honors:
NFL Rookie of the Year: NEA, Sporting News
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: AP, PFWA
NFC Rookie of the Year: UPI
Pro Bowl

Saints went 7-9 to finish fourth in the NFC West.

Aftermath:
Mayes bypassed the Pro Bowl in order to have surgery on the injured Achilles tendon as quickly as possible after the season, and while he came back with another Pro Bowl year in 1987 (917 rushing yards in the strike-interrupted season), he suffered a severe knee injury that again required off-season surgery. A contract dispute resulted in a holdout and Mayes split time with Hilliard in 1988 and another Achilles tendon injury cost him all of the ’89 season. He came back to run for 510 yards in 1990 but was barely used in the last few games. Moving on to Seattle, he saw scant action and his career came to an end in 1991. The promising rookie season proved to be the high point for Mayes, and he ended up rushing for a total of 3484 yards on 866 carries (4.0 avg.) with 23 touchdowns and catching 57 passes for 401 yards (7.0 avg.) and no scores.

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Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

[Updated 2/8/14]