Walter Payton was born July 25, 1954.
In his legendary 13-year NFL career, Payton set a plethora of rushing records, a few of which still stand today, on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Payton only started playing football his junior year of high school in Columbia, Mississippi, because he didn't want to compete with his older brother and only agreed to join once Eddie graduated. Payton then gained the attention of major college scouts, but opted to go to Jackson State.
Payton was named Black College Player of the Year in 1974, and rushed for 3,500 yards and averaging 6.1 yards per carry at Jackson State. Payton also gained his nickname, Sweetness, in college during the Senior Bowl college all-star game.
Payton was selected fourth overall in the 1975 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears, behind Steve Bartkowski, Randy White and Ken Huff.
Payton had a rough rookie season running the football, amassing only 679 yards and seven touchdowns. On the other hand, he led the league in kickoff returns.
Payton improved to 1,390 yards and 13 touchdowns the following year. This performance earned him a spot in the 1977 Pro Bowl, where he was voted MVP.
Payton also quickly became known around the league for his versatility. He is remembered as one of the best blocking and receiving backs in NFL history and would even punt and occasionally play quarterback for the Bears.
After his initial breakout year, Payton continued to improve and rushed for 1,852 yards and scored 16 touchdowns the following season, where he won 1977 NFL MVP award.
Payton and the Bears made the playoffs four times, winning Super Bowl XX in 1985. Although the team was largely known for its defense, many consider it to be the best squad of all time, Payton was a key contributor throughout the season, despite not scoring a touchdown in the game.
Payton adhered to his motto, "Never Die Easy" throughout his NFL career until calling it quits after the 1987 season. By the time he ended his career, Payton had amassed 16,726 rushing yards and 110 rushing touchdowns, both records at the time.
Payton died on Nov. 1, 1999, of bile duct cancer, but in the final weeks of his life worked with author Don Yaeger to create his autobiography, inspirationally titled, "Never Die Easy."