In what should come as a surprise to no one, running back Walter “Sweetness” Payton is our pick for the best player in Bears franchise history.
“Sweetness” entered the NFL as the fourth overall selection in the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft out of Jackson State, a school that would go on to produce a number of high-caliber NFL players during that time period.
As a collegian, Payton amassed 3,600 yards rushing and an astonishing 63 touchdowns, shattering a number of school records en route to an All-America selection in 1974.
It didn’t take Payton long to make his impact on the NFL, and he became the league’s leading rusher by his third pro season. His blend of size, speed, and athleticism made him one of the most impressive players to ever play the position, and his style would go on to inspire legions of running backs trying to follow in his footsteps.
With the franchise struggling after the retirement of legendary running back Gale Sayers, Payton’s entrance into the league was the answer to fans’ prayers on the field.
By the time his 13-year career was over, all spent with the Chicago Bears, Payton had scored 110 touchdowns and rushed for more yards than any running back in NFL history. He also happened to miss just one game in his storied career, during his rookie season in 1975.
While Payton’s legendary achievements on the field more than speak for themselves, his legacy is still felt throughout the league to this day. Each year, the NFL awards the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award to the player who demonstrates exemplary ability on the field, as well as charitable work off the field and within their respective communities.
Sadly, Payton passed away in 1999 at the age of 45, but the Hall of Famer’s legacy will continue to live on around the NFL, making him the clear choice for the best player in Bears franchise history.