Thirteen years ago on this day, Walter “Sweetness” Payton passed away at the young age of 45 from a rare liver disease called cholangiocarinoma. In memory of the NFL great, here are some interesting facts about Payton.
Remembered as one of the most prolific running backs in NFL history, Walter Payton was born in Columbia, Mississippi on July 25, 1954. Playing his college ball at Jackson State, “Sweetness” was drafted in the first round (4th pick overall) of the 1975 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. From the very beginning, Payton was destined to establish what most NFL players can only dream of. Wearing the no. 34 jersey, Payton went to the Pro Bowl nine times during his twelve-year career. Impressively, he spent all twelve years with the Bears and is a god in the Windy City. In the day of free agency and trades, that type of player is rare.
As a six time NFL First Team All Pro and three time NFL Second Team All Pro, Payton went on to win the NFL’s most prestigious individual award, NFL MVP in 1977. In that same season against the Minnesota Vikings, Sweetness broke the then NFL single game rushing record held by OJ Simpson. Battling a 101 degree fever and flu like symptoms, Payton ran for 275 yards that day.
Under the helm of Hall of Famer Mike Ditka, Sweetness broke Jim Brown‘s all time career rushing record of 12,312 yards in 1984. But perhaps the most memorable moment to himself would come in 1985 when the Bears would appear in Super Bowl XX. Though Payton was bottled up and contained during that game against the New England Patriots, the Bears would end up Super Bowl champions.
In 1993, Payton was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. In his career, the 5’10″ and 200 lb back rushed for over 16,700 yards and 110 touchdowns on the ground. There is a reason why NFL.com rated Payton the 5th all time player overall. It’s because numbers never lie. May you continue to rest in peace Mr. Payton…
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