Walter Payton Chicago Bears 1977 Football Card #360
Walter Jerry Payton (July 25, 1954 - November 1, 1999) (RB) was perhaps the greatest all-around running back in the history of the NFL with an elusive ability rarely seen and extraordinary strength, power and tenacity to fight off tackles repeatedly pushing for extra yardage. Though he did not play football until his junior year in high school, Walter rushed for over 3,500 yards and earned All-American honors in 1973. The Chicago Bears took Payton with the fourth overall pick of the 1975 NFL Draft out of Jackson State University. After a slow start in his rookie campaign, “Sweetness” led the NFL the next four seasons (1976-1979) in rushing attempts, topped all players in yards from scrimmage twice during that span, and led once in rushing, rushing touchdowns, average yards per attempt and per game and all-purpose touchdowns. The 1977 season marked a career-year for Walter achieving each of those league-leading statistics en route to being named the NFL AP, PFWA and Newspaper Enterprise Association Most Valuable Player award winner as well as the 1977 NFL AP Offensive Player of the Year and NFL Man of the Year award (renamed the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 1999) winner. The addition of Walter Payton to the Bears lineup gave then a much-needed running back not seen since fellow since Gale Sayers in 1969 and made then immediate contenders in the NFC Central.
During his 13-year career, all with the Chicago Bears (1975-1987), Walter topped the 1,500 yards from scrimmage mark ten times including the 2,000-mark four times in a single season. Payton was named to five NFL All-Pro First Teams and played in nine NFL Pro Bowls. In 1985, Walter helped lead Chicago to a Super Bowl XX victory over the New England Patriots in a 46-10 rout. Though he was only held to 61 yards and no points in Super Bowl XX, Walter was a primary reason for the Bears championship season as he was named the 1985 NFL Newspaper Enterprise Association MVP for a second time and earned the Bert Bell Award as Player of the Year. At the time of his retirement in 1987, Sweetness held the records for most career rushing yards, carries, touchdowns, yards from scrimmage and all-purpose yards. Walter finished his career with 16,726 rushing yards and 110 touchdowns, 4m538 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns and 331 passing yards and eight touchdowns. He had 21,803 career all-purpose yards and scored 750 total points on 125 touchdowns. Defensively, he had 21 career fumble recoveries. Walter Payton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. Walter tragically passed away from liver disease in 1999 at the age of 45.