I won’t go into all the records he held but one that I think is most interesting is that he threw more touchdown passes as a non-quarterback than any other player in NFL history. Because he was such a prolific runner he constantly threw other teams off guard as they thought he’d run the ball yet would stop and throw the ball downfield instead.
The Bears drafted Payton out of Jackson State College in Mississippi. They were in dire need of a great running back to replace the famous Gayle Sayers. The recruiters thought he’d be a good pick even though he came from a small college, but they didn’t expect him to be as phenomenal as he was.
He wouldn’t run out of bounds always willing to dish out one last hit to the defensive player. He also wouldn’t go down easily always churning his legs until the very end. As you can imagine defensive players hated to try and tackle him. Regarding his running style, I don’t know if you can remember the way he’d high step in an awkward way (kind of like a horse), that made defensive players miss the tackle.
While growing up, Payton was an active member of the Boy Scouts, Little League, and his local church. At John J. Jefferson High School, Payton played drums in the marching band, participated in track, and sang in the school choir. Outside of school, he played drums in jazz-rock bands. Payton had never played football until the coach asked him to try out for the team in his junior year and he agreed on the condition that he be allowed to continue playing in the band at half-time. The coach gladly accepted.
He was married for 23 years before his death and had two children. I can’t begin to list the number of charities he helped but it included one in he and his wife’s name that’s focused on organ donations. He died of Bile Duct Cancer at the age of 45 having thrown the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game a few months before his death; as usual, strong until the very end.