Top 10 NFL Running Backs of All Time Series: No. 2, Walter Payton
This is the ninth part in a 10-part series which breaks down, in detail, the top 10 running backs in NFL history.
Payton was drafted fourth overall out of Jackson State University by the Chicago Bears. Throughout his NFL career, the running back known as "Sweetness" would leave an indelible mark in the minds of everyone who watched him during his playing days both on and off the field.
Payton made the Hall of Fame in 1993, made nine Pro Bowls and was named to five All-Pro first teams.
Payton had four seasons where he rushed for 1,500-plus yards.
His best season, where he ran for 1,852 yards, currently ranks as the 14th-highest rushing-yard total in a single season in NFL history. The topper was that he accomplished that feat back when the NFL was still playing 14-game seasons. If Payton had the chance to play 16 games that year, he would have almost certainly joined the 2,000-yard club.
He also had seasons where he rushed for 1,684, 1,610 and 1,551 yards, which rank 35th, 47th and 58th all time, respectively.
During Payton's best season, he rushed for 132.3 yards a game, which ranks as the third-highest single season total ever. For his career, he averaged 88.0 rushing yards a game, which ranks eighth all time.
His career year of 1977 also saw him tally 5.5 yards per attempt. For his career, he averaged a solid 4.4 yards per attempt.
Payton's highest-rushing touchdown total for a season was 14, which he accomplished in both a 14- and 16-game season. That ranks as the 55th-best single season total ever. For his career, he ranks fourth all time for rushing touchdowns.
Payton's career rushing-yard total of 16,726 places him second on the all-time list. His career-long run was 76 yards. His single-best-game total of 275 rushing yards ranks fifth all time.
So many things stand out about Walter Payton.
Payton's training regimen, which included running those Mississippi delta hills, was legendary.
Payton possessed the greatest stiff arm in the history of the NFL.
Payton's goal-line leap was an almost-unstoppable move to get into the end zone.
Payton was known for avoiding running out of bounds. Instead, he would punish the defender for trying to tackle him. This means of intimidation worked wonders for him throughout his career as tacklers grew weary of the punishment they faced by attempting to tackle him.
Simply put: Walter Payton was the most balanced running back in the history of the NFL in terms of his approach to beating his opponent on the football field. He was equal parts power, speed and elusiveness. I rank him as the second-best running back in NFL history.
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