It almost seems fitting that on the first day of training camp when the Chicago Bears will begin to sweat, hit, and work there ways into shape and preparedness for the 2014 NFL season that camp kicks off on Walter Payton’s Birthday one of the hardest working athletes to ever play in the NFL.
On July 25, 1954 in Columbia Mississippi the greatest running back to ever play the game was born. Payton came to Chicago from Jackson State as the 4th pick overall in the 1975 NFL draft and became part of the Bears family forever.
One thing about Payton that made him great is not only was he talented, but before the era of year round workouts of today, Payton’s workouts were legendary and the hill that was his workout goal became legend too.
I was lucky enough to have been a kid when Payton was amassing a lot of yards on some really bad Bears teams in front of some pretty bad offensive lines, but there was always something that stood out about Payton unlike any other running back then or even now, it was how much punishment the tackler had to take on to bring Payton to the ground if he was able to tackle him. There was never running out of bounds, it was always put your head down and punish the defensive player for trying to bring #34 to the ground.
Luckily, for Payton Mike Ditka and some incredible draft classes in the early 1980’s turned the Bears around from a losing organization to one of the most legendary teams of all-time and the 1986 Super Bowl XX Championship. Sadly, Payton had two regrets in his career one being the one game he missed where looking back he knew he could have played and never missed a game during his 13 year career, and Ditka never calling his number in the Super Bowl blowout and letting him get one Super Bowl Touchdown. I will never understand why Ditka didn’t give Payton the ball once late in that Super Bowl blowout.
Payton was a Champion and record holder, but to me he is the running back that refused to go down the first, second, or third time he was touched and that work ethic to this date makes him my favorite player of all-time. We could go on all day talking about Walter and his records but it’s that memory of him putting his head down and refusing to be tackled that will always be my memory of Sweetness.
Payton would have been 60 today if he hadn’t left us way too soon, Happy Birthday Sweetness Thanks For All The Great Memories!!!
What’s your Favorite Walter Payton memory?