Walter Payton was picked as the fifth-best player on the NFL Network’s “Top 100.” He should have been Number One. It’s not that I have anything against the first four players as listed; rather, I just don’t think Payton can be beat. Am I prejudiced in his favor because I am a Bear fan? I probably am, but for reasons entirely different than team loyalty.
Why should Walter Payton be Number One?
Walter Payton was drafted by the Chicago Bears as the fourth all-around pick in the first round as a running back out of Jackson State. With rare exception, Payton played behind poor to mediocre offensive lines yet ran for more than a 1,000 yards in 10 of 13 seasons. He retired as the leading rusher with 16,726 yards and 110 touchdowns but he also had 21,603 combined net yards with 125 touchdowns. What would Payton have been able to do if he had played behind a line like the Packers have had, or even the Cowboys or the 49ers?
Payton was not a loner or a “drugie.” He brought class to the NFL. He was called “Sweetness” by his teammates, and he didn’t shy away from fans.
Walter Payton was one of the few runners whom tacklers would help up after a play, and he would never give up. Just look at the runs I have linked to.
When Walter Payton was taken into the Hall of Fame, he had his son give the speech and he broke down. Family was important to him.
The Chicago Bears were a struggling franchise when Payton came in 1975. Every three years, his contract came up, and fans (especially me!) would worry he would leave us for more money. He never left us.
Another thing about Payton was his figures as far as payments and salaries were never broadcast. Business was handled quietly.
I remember reading that when asked why he worked so hard, he pointed to the highest bleachers at Soldier Field and said it was for the guy in the cheap seats who spent his hard-earned money to watch him run.
I could recite stats and argue why running for the Bears was three times as hard as running for the Cowboys or Browns, but it really doesn’t matter.
Walter Payton was loved and respected. He cared about the fans and he never forgot George Halas, who gave him his first chance. He always gave his teammates the credit, and that is why he was loved. He was the type of man you could tell your kids to watch and be like.
It isn’t that Jerry Rice isn’t a dynamic player, but, my friend, there will never be another Walter Payton, who, even in dying, maintained his dignity.
Walter Payton is Number One, period.
Hall of Fame Website, “Walter Payton”
NFL Network Website, “Walter Payton RB”
You Tube Website, “Walter Payton Highlight Reel”