#34 Walter Payton - RB

Walter Payton Career NFL Stats 1975-1987


Walter Payton was born on July 25, 1954 in Columbia, MS. He was one of three children of Alyne and Peter Payton. Growing up, Walter wasn’t really into sports; his passion was music. He loved playing the drums and sing. Payton didn’t play football until he reached high school.



When Payton reached high school, his first sport wasn’t football, it was track and field. One of the reasons he didn’t play football was the support he had for his older brother Eddie. He didn’t want to compete with him and it wasn’t until after his older brother graduated he finally signed up. By the time Payton finished high school football career, he had received All-conference and All-State honors. Besides football and track, Payton also played baseball and basketball. Although he became a multi-sports star, Payton still managed to play in the band throughout his high school years. He decided to continue playing football in college at Jackson State University.


Walter Payton College Career Stats and Notes

Payton chose Jackson State University because his older brother played there. By the time his JSU Tigers career ended, Payton had made his mark on the college football level. He rushed for over 3,500 yards and set a school record with 65 rushing TDs, which included a school record 24 his junior year. His total of 464 points in his career, which included extra points as he was also a kicker, was a school and NCAA record. Whether from his charm or graceful play, it was during college when the nickname Sweetness was born! Upon leaving Jackson State, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications.


Awards and Achievements

1st Team: 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1985

2nd Team: 1986

Pro Bowl Selections
1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986
Rushing Titles:

Member of 1970s All-Decade Team

Member of 1980s All-Decade Team

Member of NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team

Member of NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team



Walter Payton NFL Career Stats and Notes

Payton was selected 4th overall in the 1975 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. The country was introduced to Sweetness, as Payton wore a white towel with ‘Sweetness 34’ during games. After rushing for less than 700 yards his rookie year, Payton crossed the 1,000 yard mark the following year with 1,390. In 1977, Payton had his greatest year, rushing for 1,852 yards and 14 TDs. In a November 20, 1977 game against the Minnesota Vikings, Payton set a new single game rushing record with 275 yards, breaking O.J. Simpson’s mark of 273. What made the feat more remarkable was Payton carried the ball 40 times while battling the flu! He would win NFL MVP that year.

As the years passed, the yardage piled up and he would pass all the great running backs before him. On October 7, 1984 in a game against the New Orleans Saints, he passed legendary Jim Brown’s 12,312 career rushing yards record to become the new all-time rushing king. With all the individual accomplishments reached, the ultimate team player finally got the ultimate team prize. At the end of the 1985 season, the 15-1 Chicago Bears won Super Bowl XX, the first super bowl win for the franchise. Probably the only negative during the 46-10 dismantling was Payton didn't score a touchdown. After the 1987 season, the great Walter Payton called it a career. He would retire with 16,726 career rushing yards, a record that stood until 2002.


Walter Payton Man of the Year Award

Walter Payton exemplified all that was great in a football player. As gifted as he was running the ball, there wasn’t a job on the field Payton wouldn’t do. He gave the same energy run blocking, pass blocking, receiving and even came in a game as an emergency quarterback.

Payton passed away on November 1, 1999 after battling cancer. The NFL renamed one of its annual awards to the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. According to, each team nominates a player who has made a positive impact on the field and in their communities. The winner gets $250,000 donated to a charity of their choice. The other nominees get $50,000 donated. It’s an award that represents the legendary life of Walter Payton.



List of Pro Football Hall of Fame Members