Today in 1984, Walter Payton Broke Jim Brown’s All-Time NFL Record for Combined Running Back Yardage

0 Posted by - March 26, 2024 - On This Date

Photo credits: Sports Illustrated Magazine

Walter “Sweetness” Payton (pictured left) was an American professional gridiron football player whose productivity and durability made him one of the sport’s greatest running backs.

He left the league as the leading rusher in the history of the National Football League (NFL), a title he held until 2002 when he was surpassed by Emmitt Smith. However, during his heyday, Payton broke a running back record held by Jim Brown (pictured right), another NFL legend who came before him.

In addition to his role as starting running back, Payton was also an occasional kicker at Jackson State. His four-year total of 464 points was a National Collegiate Athletic Association record. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the fourth overall selection of the 1975 NFL draft. 

Payton was named to the first of nine career Pro Bowls in his second season, and in 1977, he won the league’s Most Valuable Player award after leading the NFL in rushing yards (1,852; a franchise record) and rushing touchdowns (14).

On September 9, 1984, Payton broke NFL legend Jim Brown’s combined running back yardage record by reaching 15,517 yards. In the 1985 season, he helped the Bears post a 15–1 record and win the franchise’s first Super Bowl title the following January.

Payton retired from professional football for good after the 1987 season.

Sources: The Encyclopedia Britannica via Timelines of History via

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