Walter Payton Timeline
Timeline Description: Although Walter Payton's national football career lasted only 13 seasons, he made a mark in the industry by setting new records. He always strove to be the best in all he did, and he showed that hard work and determination paid off.

Date Event
1954 Walter is born.

Walter Jerry Payton is born on July 25, 1954 in Columbia, Mississippi. He is one of three children to Edward and Alyne Payton.
1967 High School (Around 1967 - 1971).

Payton plays the drums and is part of the school band as well as other singing groups. As a freshman he is part of the track and field team. He joins the football team in his sophomore year, and proves to be a valuable player. As a senior, Payton is an all-around student and athlete. Many colleges want him.
1971 College (1971 - 1975).

Payton decides to go to Jackson State. He is one of the top-scoring college football players by his junior year. Payton receives the nickname Sweetness during this time because of his smooth moves. He graduates in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in communications.
1973 Soul Train.

Payton loves to dance. He makes the national finals for a dance contest on the popular TV dance show Soul Train.
January 1975 NFL draft pick (January 1975).

The National Football League (NFL) holds its nationwide draft for new team members in January of 1975. Payton is the 4th player chosen overall, and the first choice for the Chicago Bears. His signing bonus is $126,000, the highest ever offered to a college player at that time.
1975 First season (1975 - 1976).

Payton is now the new running back for the Chicago Bears, wearing number 34. At 5'10" and 200 pounds, he is not very big, but he is fast. In his first season he rushes 679 yards, scores 7 touchdowns, and is the NFL kickoff return champ for the year. Payton marries Connie Norwood on July 7, 1976.
1977 MVP.

In a game against the Minnesota Vikings in 1977, Payton rushes 275 yards, the highest for a single game. He wins the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for that season, the youngest player to receive it. During this season he averages 5.5 yards each time he gets the ball.
1978 Contract renewal.

The Chicago Bears renew Payton's contract for 3 years. His pay for 1978 is $400,000, for 1979 is $425,000, and for 1980 is $450,000.
1984 All time record.

Jim Brown sets the record for most yards rushed in 1965 with 12, 312 yards. In 1984 Payton passes that record. By the time he ends his career, Payton leaves with an amazing 16,726 yards rushed.
1985 Super Bowl Shuffle.

In 1985 Payton and several other fellow team members record a rap song called the Super Bowl Shuffle. It makes number 41 on the U.S Billboard charts, making the Bears the only professional team to have a hit single. It sells over a half-million copies.
1986 Super Bowl XX.

Payton helps his team go to the Super Bowl in 1986. Although he is not allowed to carry to ball into the end zone for any of the touchdowns, he does help the team move down the field. The Bears defeat the New England Patriots 46 - 10.
1975 Routines (1975 - 1987).

Many football players follow strict routines to keep their winning streaks. Payton always drives the same route to practice. He also wears the same clothes. If a fellow player wants to share a ride, Payton sends a car so he doesn't break his routine.
1987 The end of a career.

When Payton is 33, he retires from the Chicago Bears. Some of his achievements in his 13 year career include catching passes 492 times for 4,538 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also passes the ball 34 times. He has played 186 continuous games, missing only one game as a rookie.
1988 Retirement years (1988 - 1999).

Payton is not idle after his retirement. He becomes a board member for the Chicago Bears, pursues business ventures in travel, real estate, restaurants, and clubs, and he endorses several products. He also co-owns a car racing business. He even sets up a foundation to help needy children.
1999 Early death.

Payton starts noticing health problems and consults a doctor in October 1998. He has a disease in the liver and needs a transplant, but his condition deteriorates and a transplant will not help. He dies on November 1, 1999 at the age of 45. His funeral is well attended and a memorial is shown on TV. Walter Payton will be remembered as an amazing athlete who gave his all to the game of football.