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Walter Payton

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Full Name: Walter Jerry Payton Primary Position: HB/RB
Height/Weight: 5' 10"/203 College: Jackson State University
Birthdate: July 25, 1954 High School: Columbia (MS)
Birthplace: Columbia, Mississippi Nickname: Sweetness
Pro Experience: 13 years
Hall of Fame


Biography

Walter Payton (Walter Jerry Payton) was born on July 25, 1954 in Columbia, Mississippi. After going to high school at Columbia (MS), Payton attended Jackson State University. Payton made his professional debut in the NFL in 1975 with the Chicago Bears. He played for the Chicago Bears for his entire 13 year career.

Most people believe that 1977 was Walter Payton's best year, as he ran for 1852 yards, ran in 14 TDs and ran for an average of 5.5 yards per carry.

Walter Jerry Payton (July 25, 1954November 1, 1999) was an American football running back for the Chicago Bears. Walter was most notably known as one of the National Football League's most productive players, setting various records during his thirteen year playing career. In 1993, Walter Payton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Early life

Walter Payton was born in Columbia, Mississippi during a time when racial tensions were at an all-time high. Despite being born to a humble blue collar family, Walter spent his free time indulging in the simple wonders of nature, and volunteering his time at his local church. During his youth, Walter conformed to his parent’s strict and positive upbringing by joining the Boy Scouts and several athletic clubs. Also, Walter was an avid participant of his school’s choir and band.

After completing grammar school, Walter enrolled into Jefferson High School, which was currently segregated at the time. It was during this time that Walter made an impact on the football scene. By using his notable size, agility, and strength, he easily earned a starting position on the school’s football team. During Walter’s junior year, his school was integrated into the all-white Columbia High School. While Walter was not particularly bothered by the growing racial tensions in his area, he grew furious at school board’s decision to hire a Caucasian coach. Walter soon realized that the school would not retract their decision, and choose to play for his new coach anyway [1]. Walter stunned the town of Columbia by leading his team to an unexpected 8-2 season.

College career

Though Walter was named on the Mississippi all-state team, many colleges shunned on account of his lack of experience and race [2]. Unfazed by the lack interest, Walter decided to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Eddie, and enrolled into Jackson State University. While attending Jackson State, Walter played and studied along side with several future NFL icons, such as Jerome Barkham, Vernon Perry, Ricky Young, Robert Brazille, and Jackie Slater.

During his college football career, Walter spearheaded Jackson State’s football team, by rushing over 3,500 yards, while averaging 6.1 yards on each run. Also, Walter scored 65 rushing touchdowns, breaking the NCAA record. Walter finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting, although many believe he would have finished in first place had he attended a college with a better reputation. Walter graduated from Jackson State in 1975, with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Beginning

On a fateful spring afternoon, the Chicago Bears selected Walter in the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft. While the Bears were currently in a slump following a plethora of losing seasons, and the recent retirement of the iconic Gale Sayers, Walter failed to uplift the Bears during his first season. During his first appearance, Walter failed to make an impact on NFL, rushing zero net yards on eight attempts. Walter’s big break came during the season finale against the New Orleans Saints, where he rushed over 134 yards on twenty attempts.

The Chicagoland area had never witnessed such an star-studded performance since the days of Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo. Walter finished his first season with 679 yards and seven touchdowns, Walter’s lowest career stats during his thirteen years with the Bears organization. Eager to improve his game, Walter trained rigorously to hone his athletic abilities. After months of off-season training, Walter would re-enter the NFL as a force to be reckoned.

Golden Years

During the 1976 NFL season, Walter rushed over 1,000 yards and scored thirteen touchdowns. He his new found momentum into he 1976 NFL season, where he amazed football fanatics with sublime performance that earned him numerous awards, most notably NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. He also earned his first Pro Bowl invitation, where he was named to be the 1977 Pro Bowl MVP. Other highlights from the 1977 season include rushing over 275 yards against the Minnesota Vikings whilst combating a case of the flu. Furthermore, Walter’s exploits on the football field had not only earned attention as a running back, but also as a blocker, receiver, and emergency punter and quarterback.

“Da Coach” Arrives

During the 1982 NFL season, Mike Ditka, a decorated former Chicago Bears player, replaced Neill Armstrong as the head coach of the Chicago Bears. Before the season could begin, Ditka delivered a motivational speech to his players and fans, in which helped the Bears develop a winning an optimistic attitude for the following seasons. To help Payton, Ditka began to assemble an all-star cast of players, including Jim McMahon, “Samurai” Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton, Willie Gault and Dennis McKinnon.

After the Bears’ Super Bowl hopes were cut short in the 1984 NFL Postseason, the team swore to rebound. The Bears exploded into the 1985 NFL season with their patented 46 Style defense. The ‘85 Bears, considered to be one of the greatest NFL teams of all time [3], conjured a sublime 15-1 record. With the help of Walter Payton, the Bears managed to voraciously conquer their post season foes, for a combined score of 45-0. Payton, along side with his Shufflin’ Crew, prepared for an epic battle against the New England Patriots at Super Bowl XX.

Although Payton has a sub-par performance, his teammates managed to put up 46 points, while holding the Patriots to negative yardage till the third quarter of the game. While Super Bowl XX stands as one of the most lop-sided Super Bowls in history, it should be noted that Payton never managed to grace the end zone. Ditka would later express his regrets for not letting Payton score a touchdown during a later interview [4].

Later Years

During the 1986 NFL season, the Bears managed to cap the season with an NFC central title and another trip to the play offs. Payton, who was now in his older years, was now sharing the role of running back with his future successor, Neal Anderson. The Bears failed to persevere through the divisional round of the playoffs, as they lost to the Washington Redskins , 27 - 13. Following the 1986 season, Payton announced that he would retire from professional football following the completion of the 1987 NFL season. After setting numerous franchise and league records, Payton retired from the NFL.

Personal life

In 1976, Walter married Connie Norword. In years to come they would have two children, Brittany and Jarrett Payton. He resided with his family in South Barrington, Illinois, a small town west of Chicago. Despite enjoying much success during his professional career, Walter always encouraged to reach beyond their full potential, and strive for excellency.

Following his professional career, in 1995, Walter, along with many other investors, sought to bring an NFL expansion team to Saint Louis, Missouri. Unfortunately, their efforts were thwarted, when the NFL decided to create expansion teams in Jacksonville, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Also, Walter dabbled his time in a CART Racing investment with Dale Coyne. Walter participated in various races, including a race in Elkhart, Illinois which nearly claimed his life. Also that year, Walter founded “Walter Payton's Roundhouse”, a restaurant and pub that also hosted a museum of Walter’s sports memorabilia.

Illness and Death

In February of 1999, Payton announced that he had a rare liver disease known as primary sclerosing cholangitis, which soon led to the growth a of a cancerous tumor on Walter’s liver. Walter spent his final months alive as an advocate for organ transplants, appearing in many commercials to encourage others to donate organs. The following April, Walter made a final public appearance at a Chicago Cubs game with Mike Ditka. While there, Walter threw the game’s Ceremonial first pitch.

In late October, Walter Payton began to succumb to his cancer. On November 1, 1999, Walter Payton passed away.

Legacy

Walter’s memories are carried on through his charity foundation, the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation . The Walter and Connie Payton Foundation, Illinois witnessed a dramatic skyrocket in Organ donations [5]. Furthermore, Walter organized a program which donates a plethora of toys to underprivileged children across the Chicagoland area each Christmas.

During the 2000 NFL season, Emmitt Smith tearfully paid tribute to Walter after breaking Payton’s rushing record. Smith claimed Walter taught him how to behave both on and off the field. Walter’s son, Jarrett Payton is currently a running back for the Tennessee Titans. During his tenure at the University of Miami, Jarrett wore a #34 Jersey to honor his father’s memory.

Playing Style

Walter is often most well remembered for his signature high stepping, stiff-legged running gait, which would often confuse his pursuers. Also, Walter gained much popularity for his fearless tactics of running towards defenders, as opposed to running out of bounds. In a memorable game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Walter used this tactic to hammer his way up-field, knocking out two defenders in the process.

Payton's unique and distinctive "stiff-legged" high-stepping running style was also a product of his desire to avoid injury. Template:Fact He ran by planting only the balls and toes of his feet on the turf, and keeping his heels elevated. In the event of a tackle, this would allow his legs to move as if he was hit from the side, protecting the connective tissues in his knees from injury. This stance necessitated extremely strong leg biceps and glutes, as he had to swing his legs from his hips in order to run.

Walter also established himself as a conqueror of gravity, often making prodigious hurdles over lines of players to enter the end zone. Accompanied by defensive tackle William “Da Fridge” Perry, Walter and his awkward blocker often pounded their way into the end zone. In the clutch, Walter also served as quarterback, accepting footballs from hand offs and throwing them with impressive accuracy. During a match-up against the Minnesota Vikings, Walter managed to throw a 60 yard completion to a receiver. In another game, he managed to throw an ironic touchdown pass to quarterback, Jim McMahon.

Despite his athletic prowess, Walter often shunned excessive exposure to the limelight. After scoring a touchdown, Walter would never showboat or celebrate. Instead, he would often give the ball to his team mates to spike into the ground. However, Walter developed a humorous reputation among his teammates for his comedic antics. On various occasions, he would rush into the locker room to lock his fellow teammates out. Also, Payton would occasionally untie the shoe laces of referees whilst lying prone before them.


Scouting Report

Statistics

Rushing Stats

year team league games ATT YDS AVG TD LNG
1975 CHI NFL 13 196 679 3.5 7 54t
1976 CHI NFL 14 311 1390 4.5 13 60
1977 CHI NFL 14 339 1852 5.5 14 73
1978 CHI NFL 16 333 1395 4.2 11 76
1979 CHI NFL 16 369 1610 4.4 14 43t
1980 CHI NFL 16 317 1460 4.6 6 69t
1981 CHI NFL 16 339 1222 3.6 6 39
1982 CHI NFL 9 148 596 4 1 26
1983 CHI NFL 16 314 1421 4.5 6 49t
1984 CHI NFL 16 381 1684 4.4 11 72t
1985 CHI NFL 16 324 1551 4.8 9 40t
1986 CHI NFL 16 321 1333 4.2 8 41
1987 CHI NFL 12 146 533 3.7 4 17
13 year NFL career 190 3838 16726 4.4 110 0

Receiving Stats

year team league games REC YDS AVG TD LNG
1975 CHI NFL 13 33 213 6.5 0 40
1976 CHI NFL 14 15 149 9.9 0 34
1977 CHI NFL 14 27 269 10 2 75t
1978 CHI NFL 16 50 480 9.6 0 61
1979 CHI NFL 16 31 313 10.1 2 65t
1980 CHI NFL 16 46 367 8 1 54t
1981 CHI NFL 16 41 379 9.2 2 30
1982 CHI NFL 9 32 311 9.7 0 40
1983 CHI NFL 16 53 607 11.5 2 74t
1984 CHI NFL 16 45 368 8.2 0 31
1985 CHI NFL 16 49 483 9.9 2 65
1986 CHI NFL 16 37 382 10.3 3 57
1987 CHI NFL 12 33 217 6.6 1 16
13 year NFL career 190 492 4538 9.2 15 0

Passing Stats

year team league games ATT CMP PCT YDS YPA TD INT SKD SKY RAT
1975 CHI NFL 13 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
1976 CHI NFL 14 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1977 CHI NFL 14 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1978 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1979 CHI NFL 16 1 1 100 54 54 1 0 0 0 158.3
1980 CHI NFL 16 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 39.6
1981 CHI NFL 16 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 39.6
1982 CHI NFL 9 3 1 33.3 39 13 1 0 0 0 121.5
1983 CHI NFL 16 6 3 50 95 15.83 3 2 0 0 95.8
1984 CHI NFL 16 8 3 37.5 47 5.88 2 1 0 0 57.8
1985 CHI NFL 16 5 3 60 96 19.2 1 0 0 0 143.8
1986 CHI NFL 16 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
1987 CHI NFL 12 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
13 year NFL career 190 34 11 32.4 331 9.74 8 6 0 0 69.6

Fumble Recovery Stats

year team league games TOT OWR OPR YDS TD
1975 CHI NFL 13 9 1 0 0 0
1976 CHI NFL 14 10 0 0 0 0
1977 CHI NFL 14 11 5 0 0 0
1978 CHI NFL 16 5 1 1 0 0
1979 CHI NFL 16 7 2 0 0 0
1980 CHI NFL 16 5 3 0 0 0
1981 CHI NFL 16 9 3 0 0 0
1982 CHI NFL 9 3 1 0 0 0
1983 CHI NFL 16 5 2 0 0 0
1984 CHI NFL 16 5 1 0 0 0
1985 CHI NFL 16 6 1 0 0 0
1986 CHI NFL 16 6 0 0 0 0
1987 CHI NFL 12 5 0 0 0 0
13 year NFL career 190 86 20 1 0 0

Kick Return Stats

year team league games RET YDS AVG LNG TD
1975 CHI NFL 13 14 444 31.7 70 0
1976 CHI NFL 14 1 0 0 0 0
1977 CHI NFL 14 2 95 47.5 68 0
1978 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0
1979 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0
1980 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0
1981 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0
1982 CHI NFL 9 0 0 0 0 0
1983 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0
1984 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0
1985 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0
1986 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0
1987 CHI NFL 12 0 0 0 0 0
13 year NFL career 190 17 539 31.7 0 0

Punting Stats

year team league games PT YDS LNG BLK TB I20 NET AVG
1975 CHI NFL 13 1 39 39 0 0 0 0 39
1976 CHI NFL 14 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1977 CHI NFL 14 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1978 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1979 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1980 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1981 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1982 CHI NFL 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1983 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1984 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1985 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1986 CHI NFL 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1987 CHI NFL 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
13 year NFL career 190 1 39 39 0 0 0 0 39

Trivia

See also

Awards

  • Won the AP NFL MVP in 1977
  • Won the AP Offensive Player of the Year in 1977
  • Won the Pro Bowl MVP in 1977
  • Won the PFWA MVP in 1977
  • Won the UPI NFCPlayer of the Year in 1977
  • Won the Bert Bell MVP Trophy (Maxwell Club) in 1985
  • Won the UPI NFC Offensive Player of the Year in 1985

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