JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Jackson State and Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton will posthumously receive the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
Payton was a record-setting running back for Jackson State University (JSU) from 1971 to 1975 who went on to become the most prolific running back in the history of the NFL.
When he completed his playing career at Jackson State, he had set records for career rushing yards (3,600), average yards per carry (6.1), career rushing touchdowns (65), rushing touchdowns in a season (24), touchdowns scored in a single game (7) and most points scored in a career (464). He was named first team All-SWAC in 1972, 1973 and 1974. He was named SWAC Offensive MVP in 1974 and he was named to several All-America teams. He also was a candidate for the Heisman Trophy his senior year.
In 1975, Payton was drafted in the first round (4th player picked) by the Chicago Bears and the first running back selected in the ’75 draft. He went on to become an extraordinary running back for the Bears, once holding records for career rushing yards, touchdowns, carries, yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards, and many other categories.
Some of Payton’s NFL highlights during his 13-year career with the Bears include Super Bowl champion, NFL MVP (1977), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1977), five time All Pro, 110 rushing touchdowns and most consecutive NFL starts by a running back (170).
In 1993, Payton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994 and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019. In 1999, the NFL renamed its Man of the Year Award the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in recognizing an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field.
Among Payton’s collegiate honors are inductions into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, the Jackson State Sports Hall of Fame and the SWAC Hall of Fame.
Payton died at 46-years-old in 1999 after suffering from a rare liver disease.
A member of the Payton family will accept the award on his behalf during the association’s annual Legends Awards and Roast on Saturday, May 20 at the Embassy Suites Ridgeland.