Walter Payton is known by many as one of the greatest running backs to ever grace the NFL. He was the fourth pick in the 1974 draft and, as we know, was taken by the Chicago Bears.
His rookie season was a little underwhelming as he got used to the rigors of pro football, finishing with 679 yards and seven touchdowns. He would only miss the 1,000-yard mark for rushing two more times throughout his entire career.
His second season saw him announce himself to the league. Payton played 14 games and rushed for 1,390 yards and 13 touchdowns as he was nominated to the Pro Bowl, a feat he would achieve for the next four consecutive seasons while being named an All-Pro three times in the space of five years.
Walter Payton named Man of the Year
Payton would have his best ever season in 1977. The running back was simply on another level as he led the Bears to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
He finished with an incredible 1,852 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns as he averaged 5.5 yards a carry and 132.2 yards per game, which is astonishing.
Payton would win the NFL MVP award for his efforts, along with the Man of the Year award as his greatness reached incredible heights, both on and off the field as he was a tireless worker in his community. He also grabbed his fair share of records as well. Claiming the most rushing yards in a single game, 275 against the VIkings, if you don’t mind.
NFL names trophy after Walter Payton
Unfortunately, Payton succumbed to a rare liver disease in 1999. He passed away at the age of just 45. He was an advocate for helping as many people as possible, even if he could not help himself. Such was his impact on not only the game of football, but also the community of Chicago. The NFL made the move to add his name to the Man of the Year trophy shortly after his passing.
It would now be named the Walter Payton Man of the Year award and is considered, by many, to be the most prestigious honor that can be bestowed upon a player.
He was known as such a giving person as he set up numerous events for children and even made the step to set up a foundation called The Walter and Connie Foundation to help those who are less fortunate.
The star running back retired from the NFL after 13 incredible years that saw him rush for over 1,000 yards in ten out of his 13 seasons and surpass the 1,200-yard mark ten times throughout his career.
In 1987, Payton retired and was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. It was a record that stood for over a decade until Dallas Cowboys star Emmitt Smith broke it in 2002.
In total, Payton finished his illustrious career with 16,726 rushing yards, 110 touchdowns and had numerous accolades to his name. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, a five-time All-Pro, a Super Bowl champion (1985), an MVP winner, and a member of the Hall of Famer All-80s Team. In 1993, he was inducted into the NFL’s Hall of Fame.
Walter Payton was a true great of the game, both on and off the field.
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