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James Saxon
Running Backs
College:
San Jose State
Experience:
17

Biography

James Saxon
Running Backs Coach

James Saxon is in his third season as the running backs coach for the Steelers, after being hired on January 28, 2014. Saxon is entering his 25th season in the NFL as either a player or coach.

In his 16 years as an NFL running backs coach, Saxon has helped his backs reach the Pro Bowl 12 times, and he has had a running back surpass the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a single season nine times.

James Saxon
Running Backs Coach

James Saxon is in his third season as the running backs coach for the Steelers, after being hired on January 28, 2014. Saxon is entering his 25th season in the NFL as either a player or coach.

In his 16 years as an NFL running backs coach, Saxon has helped his backs reach the Pro Bowl 12 times, and he has had a running back surpass the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a single season nine times.

In 2015, running back Le’Veon Bell was lost for the season due to a knee injury he sustained in Week 8. Veteran running back DeAngelo Williams contributed in a big way, as he totaled 1,274 scrimmage yards and tied for the league lead with 11 rushing touchdowns. He was the only AFC player to register at least 1,000 scrimmage yards and at least 10 rushing touchdowns. Williams tied the single-game franchise record by rushing for three touchdowns Week 2 vs. San Francisco.

After Williams suffered a foot injury that kept him out of the postseason, backup running backs Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint contributed in the postseason, combining for 230 scrimmage yards in two games.

Saxon coached Bell to a breakout season in just his second year in the league in 2014. Bell was named Steelers’ MVP, and he set numerous single-season records, including yards from scrimmage (2,215), first downs (114), receptions by a running back (83) and receiving yards by a running back (854). He became the first player since Walter Payton (1976) to total at least 200 yards from scrimmage in three straight games.  

Bell rushed for an AFC-best 1,361 yards in 2014, the fifth-highest total in a single season in team history.  He also became just the second player in NFL history to record at least 1,350 rushing yards and 850 receiving yards in a single season (Marshall Faulk, 1999). In games 11-14, Bell totaled 830 yards from scrimmage, which tied him for the fourth-most in a four-game span in NFL history.

In 2012, Saxon helped guide Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to the second-best single-season rushing performance in NFL history with 2,097 yards and a first-team All-Pro selection. That year, Peterson became only the third player in Minnesota history to be named NFL MVP and was also named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Peterson set or tied numerous team and league records in 2012, including the most rushing yards in the month of December (861) in NFL history and his 10 games of more than 100 rushing yards tied his own team record (2008). In addition to Peterson’s accolades, FB Jerome Felton was a second-team All-Pro selection and earned a Pro Bowl spot for the first time in his career.

Prior to Minnesota, Saxon spent three seasons (2008-10) coaching running backs for the Miami Dolphins, including Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, who he helped reach the Pro Bowl following the 2008 season. In 2009, the Dolphins finished with the NFL’s fourth-best rushing attack (139.4 yards per game) and Williams led the team with 1,121 rushing yards. The Dolphins also used Brown and Williams in the Wildcat package as a wrinkle in their offense.

Saxon spent seven seasons (2001-07) with the Kansas City Chiefs, helping a trio of the top backs in franchise history (Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson and Tony Richardson) earn seven Pro Bowl selections. Holmes and Johnson totaled five 1,000-yard rushing seasons between them in Saxon’s tenure. Holmes and Johnson also rank first and second, respectively, in team history in career yardage and own four of the top single-season rushing totals in team history, including Johnson’s team-record 1,789 yards in 2006.

The 2003 season saw Holmes set the Kansas City single-season record with 27 rushing touchdowns, which at the time was also an NFL record. Holmes played his entire career under Saxon, finishing with 24 100-yard rushing games, which was later topped by Johnson’s 30 such performances.

Saxon broke into the NFL as a running backs coach with the Buffalo Bills in 2000, after spending three seasons in the collegiate ranks. Saxon spent one season as a volunteer assistant coach at Menlo College in 1999 and spent two seasons coaching running backs at Rutgers University (1997-98).

Saxon was a sixth round draft choice (139th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1988. He spent eight seasons as an NFL running back, playing for the Chiefs (1988-91), Dolphins (1992-94) and Philadelphia Eagles (1995). In his career, Saxon played in 111 games during the regular season and in eight postseason contests. During the regular season, Saxon totaled 214 touches for 1,048 scrimmage yards.

Saxon began his collegiate career at American River Junior College (1984-85). He then transferred to San Jose State University (1986-87), where he totaled 609 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 118 carries in two seasons. He recorded 78 receptions for 732 yards and four touchdowns, while also throwing four touchdown passes.

A native of Beaufort, S.C., Saxon attended Battery Creek High School in Burton, S.C. He is married to Shannon and their son, Devin, played football at Harvard. 

1997-98
Rutgers University
Running Backs

1999
Menlo College
Volunteer Assistant

2000
Buffalo Bills
Running Backs

2001-2007
Kansas City Chiefs
Running Backs

2008-2010
Miami Dolphins
Running Backs

2011-2013
Minnesota Vikings
Running Backs

2014-2016
Pittsburgh Steelers
Running Backs