In the 1980s, perhaps no player impacted the Super Bowl odds as much as Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears. Walter Payton was given the nickname “Sweetness” and it’s hard to imagine a better fit for a player’s nickname.
Not only was Payton almost impossible to tackle on the field, but he was also known for being a great person. The “Sweetness” nickname just spoke to his entire presence as it was how he was from the day he stepped into the NFL until the day that he died.
Payton helped lead the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl, and the 1985 Bears are considered one of the best NFL teams of all time. That team should have won more than one title, but you certainly can’t blame Payton for a few disappointing playoff exits.
The stats and facts surrounding the career of Walter Payton will always be impressive, and only a handful of runners have ever had a better career.
Walter Payton was a well-known running back in high school, but he wasn’t good enough to receive an offer from big schools. Instead, Payton decided to enroll at Jackson State University, and he there became a star.
The college football stats for Payton at JSU were tremendous, as he racked up 598 carries for 3,600 rushing yards in his four years. Payton averaged 6.0 yards per carrying, and it wasn’t long before NFL teams started to take note.
“Sweetness” scored 63 rushing touchdowns at Jackson State and was named to the All-American team during his senior season. He was also named the Black College Player of the Year as both a Junior and a Senior.
The biggest game of Payton’s career came on September 23, 1972, as he scored seven touchdowns and two two-point conversions. There were questions about how Payton would perform against better opponents, but that fear quickly faded after he entered the league.
Ridiculous NFL Numbers
When the Chicago Bears drafted Walter Payton, he joined a franchise that was used to losing. There wasn’t much talent on the Bears roster, and Payton was expected to carry the load nearly every single game.
Payton could accomplish that on most Sundays, but it also took a significant toll on his body. Even though Payton was taking a beating most weeks, he still managed to play all 16 games in eight of his professional seasons.
Payton ended his NFL career with 3,838 rushing attempts and 16,726 yards, which at the time was a record. There are also several NFL records that still stand when looking at the accomplishments for Payton, including:
- Consecutive regular season starts for a running back (170)
- Most games with at least 100-yards from scrimmage (108)
- Touchdown passes by a non-quarterback (8)
- Consecutive seasons leading the league in rushing attempts (4)
Payton did it all for the Bears and was even forced to start some games at the quarterback position. He is easily the best player in the history of the Chicago Bears and is also one of the best players in NFL history.
A Tragic Ending
Walter Payton retired at the end of the 1987 season, and it ended any chance that the Bears had to win another Super Bowl. Payton largely kept out of the national spotlight following his retirement, but he remained an important figure in Chicago.
That all started to change in 1998 and 1999 as people began to notice that one of the best running backs of all time was sick with an illness. Rumors started to circulate, and it was Payton himself that announced to the world that he had rare liver disease in a press conference in February 1999.
Payton did his best to fight the disease, but it was a battle that ended pretty quickly. He lost his battle on November 1, 1999, a day that is still remembered by Bears fans to this day.
Payton was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 in one of the easiest decisions of all time.