Named Ncaa Leading Scorer Of All Time
After a grueling summer of training with brother Eddie in 1973, Payton, now a senior, returned to Jackson State stronger than ever. At the end of his senior year in football, he was named the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) leading scorer of all time with 464 points. Somehow, through it all, Payton managed to keep up with his studies, earning his bachelor's degree in special education in only three and a half years. It was during his college years that Payton picked up the nickname "Sweetness," which was to stay with him for the rest of his life.
In the first round of the 1975 NFL draft Payton was chosen by the Chicago Bears, making him the fourth player to be drafted overall. He successfully pushed for a signing bonus larger than that the Bears paid four years earlier to Archie Manning, a quarterback from the University of Mississippi. In the end, the Bears paid Payton $126,000. The Bears, which had had their last winning season in 1967, were hoping that Payton could help turn things around for them. Sadly, the dreams of a quick turnaround were not to materialize. Even with Payton energizing the Bears lineup, the team lost six of its first seven games. Slowed by an ankle injury, Payton played only sporadically in the first half of the season and missed one game altogether—the only missed game of his career.
Payton snapped back in the second half of his rookie season as his ankle healed. At season's end, he led the NFL in kickoff returns and had amassed a total of 679 yards rushing, the highest for any Bears runner since 1969. During the summer following his first season with the Bears, Payton married Connie Norwood, his college sweetheart at Jackson State, on July 7, 1976. During Payton's second season, the Bears fared better than they had in eight years, with an even split of seven wins and seven losses. Had it not been for an injury he suffered in the final game of the season, Payton almost certainly would have won the NFL rushing title for the year—and he did lead the National Football Conference (NFC) in yards gained with a total of 1,390.
- Walter Payton - Breaks Single-game Rushing Record
- Walter Payton - Chronology
- Other Free Encyclopedias