SPORTS MEDICINE: Drew Brees poster boy for wreck of a football season | John Doherty

Name: Walter Payton

Best decade: 1970s

Nickname: Sweetness

Position: Running back

Seasons played with Bears: 13

Career Highlights: Walter Payton might be regarded as the greatest Chicago Bear of all time and one of the best to ever play, according to fans and media. 

Payton’s professional origin began in 1975 when the Bears selected him in the first round of the NFL Draft. He was the fourth overall pick.

The Bears hadn’t had a winning season or a great running back since Gale Sayers retired in 1972. Payton was a gift the Bears needed from the football gods. 

However, his rookie season showed otherwise. He finished with 679 yards and seven touchdowns, but led the league in yards per kickoff return.

Payton was ready to improve for the following season. 

In 1976, Payton rushed for 1,390 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. He played in the 1977 Pro Bowl and won the MVP award for the game. 

Payton’s early years of improving never stopped. In his 1977 season, Payton rushed for 1,852 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. He was the league’s leading scorer that season. 

On October 7, 1984 Payton broke the NFL’s career rushing record. 

In 1985 — the best year in the history of Chicago football — Payton rushed for more than 1,500 yards and helped the Bears get to Super Bowl XX. 

Mike Ditka, who coached the winning Super Bowl team, said that one of the biggest regrets he made in his life was not letting Payton score a touchdown in the game, using quarterback Jim McMahon and defensive tackle William Perry to run the ball instead.

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