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Walter Payton

Joins Track Team As Long Jumper

Payton's interest in sports picked up in the ninth grade when he joined Jefferson's track team as a long jumper. He also played drums in the school's band. Although he was drawn to football, he didn't go out for the school team, on which his older brother, Eddie, was the star running back, because he didn't want his mother worrying about both her sons getting hurt. After Eddie graduated, Jefferson's football coach asked Payton, then a sophomore, to try out for the team. After winning a promise from the coach that he could stay in the band, Payton agreed. In his very first high school game, he ran 65 yards for a touchdown. In 1969, all-black Jefferson merged with all-white Columbia High School, and Payton quickly became the unchallenged star of the school's football team, scoring in every game of his junior and senior years. Looking back on Payton's high school football career, Columbia coach Tommy Davis said he could always count on Walter when the team needed to score. Three years in a row, Payton was named to the all-conference team, and in his senior year he led the Little Dixie Conference in scoring and was selected for the all-state team.

After his graduation from Columbia High, Payton joined older brother Eddie at predominantly black Jackson State College where together the siblings were stars in the college football team's backfield. At the end of Payton's freshman year in college, Eddie graduated and moved on to the NFL, leaving Walter alone in the spotlight. Payton proved himself a versatile player, serving as Jackson State's halfback, punter, and place kicker. He ended his sophomore year as the nation's second highest collegiate scorer. That same year he broke college records by amassing the highest number of points—46—in a single game. As a junior, Payton ran for a total of 1,139 yards and led the country in scoring with 160 points.


1954 Born in Columbia, Mississippi, on July 25
1971 Graduates from Columbia High School where he starred in football
1971-75 Attends Mississippi's Jackson State College
1972 Scores 46 points in a single game
1975 Picked by Chicago Bears in first round of NFL draft
1976 Marries college sweetheart Connie Norwood on July 7
1985 Leads Chicago Bears to Super Bowl Championship
1987 Retires from professional football
1993 Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame
1999 Develops rare live disease and later cancer of the bile duct
1999 Dies at the age of 45 in South Barrington, Illinois, on November 1

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Famous Sports StarsFootballWalter Payton Biography - Born In Columbia, Mississippi, Joins Track Team As Long Jumper, Chronology, Named Ncaa Leading Scorer Of All Time