Legends Of The Gridiron - Walter Payton "Sweetness"
1975 the Chicago Bears drafted a future hall of fame running
back in the making by the name of Walter Payton. Nicknamed “Sweetness” for his smooth
and explosive running style became one of the most exciting running
backs the NFL has ever seen.
Walter Payton was born in Columbia Mississippi during a time of
racial tension. He had many interests growing up such as volunteering at
his church, sporting clubs, choir and band. He was a standout football
player at Jefferson High School. Ironically, when he entered college,
many schools steered clear of him. Even though he was named to the
Mississippi All-State team, their reasons were thought to be because he
lacked experience and his race.
Unaffected by the schools lack of interest, he followed in his older
brother Eddie’s footsteps and attended Jackson State University. In his
early years there, Walter showed just how much of a leader he was. He
rushed over 3500 yards while averaging 6.1 yards per carry and scored 65
rushing touchdowns smashing the NCAA record.
Drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 1975 NFL
Draft, Walter failed to have much impact if any on the struggling Bears
the year with only 679 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, Walter posted
his single lowest career stats during his thirteen years with Chicago.
After a grueling off-season of intense training Walter was determined
to show Chicago what he was made of. In 1976, he rushed for over 1,000
yards and scored thirteen touchdowns. He even set an NFL rushing record
after rushing 275 yards in one game against the Minnesota Vikings while
battling the flu. He quickly was recognized as not only a running back
but also as a blocker, receiver and emergency punter and trick play
He was awarded NFL Offensive Player of the Year and invited to his
first Pro Bowl game. If that wasn’t enough, Walter was named the 1977
Pro Bowl MVP to cap off his successful season.
Walter Payton was a member of the ’85 bears, considered by many as
the greatest NFL team of all time. They easily defeated the New England
Patriots in Super Bowl XX in a lopsided 45-0 victory. Although Walter
didn’t score a touchdown in that game, his field presence alone proved
to be enough of a distraction to the Patriots defense.
After winning the 1986 NFC Central title Walter Payton announced his
retirement from football following the completion of the 1987 NFL
Walter Payton’s signature high stepping, stiff-legged running style
allowed him to remain injury free his whole career. He was a fearless
runner and often ran at defenders not away from them. He was known for
taking flight over the pile of players when in the red zone.
Walter was well respected from peers, teammates and fans. He believed
in playing the game he loved with dignity and respect to others. Because
of this he never showboated, celebrated or spiked the ball after a
touchdown. He usually gave the ball to a teammate to do the honors.
Walter Payton’s accomplishments include holding the Chicago Bears
career rushing record with 16,726 yards as well as the Bears career
rushing touchdowns record with 110. He was a nine time member of the pro
bowl and was elected to the 70’s All-Decade Team, 80’s All Decade Team,
and the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Walter Payton was inducted
into the National Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
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