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Walter Payton

Negotiates Lucrative Contracts

Having proved his worth to the Bears, Payton in 1978 negotiated contracts that guaranteed him $400,000 for the 1978 season, $425,000 for 1979, and $450,000 plus incentive bonuses for 1980. However, despite the front office's high hopes, Payton's 50 pass receptions and 1,395 yards in rushing yardage were not enough to keep the Bears from another losing season. They ended the 1978 season with a 7-9 record. Payton and fullback Roland Harper, with 992 rushing yards, accounted for 72 percent of the Bears' offense in 1978.

Awards and Accomplishments

1974 Named Little All-American after setting nine school records at Jackson State College
1975 Tops 100 yards rushing for Chicago Bears for the first time
1976 Named Sporting News NFC Player of the Year and picked to play in Pro Bowl
1976-81 Rushes for 1,000 yards or more each season
1977 Sets single-game rushing record with 275 yards vs. Minnesota on November 20
1977 Named NFL Player of the Year and Sporting News NFC Player of the Year
1977 Named NFL Offensive Player of the Year
1978-81, 1984-87 Selected to play in Pro Bowl
1984 Breaks Jim Brown's NFL career rushing record
1985 Named NFL Player of the Year
1993 Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame

Lessons in Greatness

Payton was not the greatest running back in history, but he was close. Jimmy Brown and O.J. Simpson were better, but no one player in NFL history at any position has forced more from his body and driven himself as relentlessly as Payton. This is Payton's first lesson: Never settle for less than you can possibly be….

"I'm always fearful I'm not in the best shape I can be in," Payton once told me. "My goal is to be able to play all out 60 minutes every game. Since you might have the ball only 30 minutes, I figure I've got enough left to go all out every play."

Source: Attner, Paul Sporting News (November 15, 1999): 8.

Hampered by a painful pinched nerve in his shoulder through much of the 1979 season, Payton nevertheless managed to rush for 1,610 yards, the best in the NFC. With a 10-6 record, the Bears made it into the playoffs, but they were eliminated in the first round. With a season total of 1,460 yards, Payton snagged his fifth consecutive NFC rushing title in 1980, but it was not enough to keep the Bears from a dismal 7-9 record. The following year was even worse for the Bears, who finished the season with a record of 6-10. Slowed for much of the 1981 season by a sore shoulder and cracked ribs, Payton managed to rush for only 1,222 yards for the season, failing to win the NFC rushing title for the first time in several years.

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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