We had so much fun doing our Countdown to Kickoff series last season that we decided to do it again. In case you’re new to the series, we’ll do a roster preview as we count down the days until the Chicago Bears September 7th season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
It’s an honor and a privilege to introduce a player who is not only one of the all-time greatest Chicago Bears, but also one of the greatest players in NFL history — Walter Payton. It’s equally an honor and an privilege to introduce a player who represents just 34 short days until the 2014 Bears season opener.
As many Bears fans already know, “Sweetness” began his historic pro career in 1975 when the Bears took him with the fourth overall pick. The Jackson State alum struggled out of the gates in his rookie season but found his stride — literally — during the 1976 campaign. Then, in 1978, Payton set the then-NFL record for rushing yards in a single game with 275, a mark that stood for 23 years. He was also named the Associated Press and Pro Football Writers of America’s Most Valuable Player.
By 1983, Payton had helped the Bears crawl out of the cellar of the NFL and begin competing with the top-tier teams. In 1984, Payton broke Jim Brown’s career rushing record of 12,312 yards and forever etched his name into the NFL record books. Payton’s consistent success helped the Bears become the league’s second-best overall offense, while it also boasted the league’s top defense. This combination became instrumental in the Bears reaching and winning the 1985 Super Bowl, despite minimal production in the game from Payton himself.
Payton’s accomplishments could fill up an entire web site, but most importantly the all-time great running back was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and he had his iconic No. 34 jersey retired by the Bears. His legacy stretched beyond the football field though. Payton’s incredible work ethic and humanitarian spirit influenced the entire Chicago community. After being diagnosed with a rare liver disease in 1999, he became an advocate for organ transplants and donations, a cause that he relayed into the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation.
Though many of his records have now fallen, Payton remains one of the greatest players and individuals that the NFL has ever seen. His No. 34 is a constant reminder of what hard work and dedication can ultimately lead a person to accomplish.
Be on the lookout for our Countdown to Kickoff series as we continue to work our way to the season opener on September 7th. We’re 34 days from kickoff. Are you ready???