2nd season in pro football & with Bears
Height: 5’10” Weight: 203
Payton was a two-time All-American in college, rushing for 3563 yards and 66 touchdowns, and his 464 points set a NCAA record. Chosen by the Bears in the first round of the 1975 NFL draft, he played hurt during his rookie season (and missed the only game of his career) as he accumulated 679 rushing yards.
1976 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]
Attempts – 311 
Most attempts, game - 36 (for 97 yds.) vs. Oakland 11/7
Yards – 1390 [2, 1st in NFC]
Most yards, game – 183 yards (on 27 carries) at Seattle 12/5
Average gain – 4.5 
TDs – 13 [2, tied with Chuck Foreman, 1st in NFC]
100-yard rushing games – 7
Receptions – 15
Most receptions, game – 4 (for 42 yds.) at Minnesota 10/10
Yards – 149
Most yards, game - 42 (on 4 catches) at Minnesota 10/10
Average gain – 9.9
TDs – 0
Returns – 1
Yards – 0
TDs – 0
All-Purpose Yards – 1539 
TDs – 13 [3, tied with Steve Grogan]
Points – 78
Awards & Honors:
NFC Player of the Year: Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, Pro Football Weekly
2nd team All-NFL: NEA
1st team All-NFC: AP, UPI, Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly
Bears went 7-7 to finish second in the NFC Central, their best record since 1968.
Payton followed up his breakout 1976 season by rushing for a league-leading 1852 yards, including a then-record 275 in a single game in ’77. He garnered MVP honors as well as being a consensus first-team All-NFL selection for the second year. Payton continued to be not only a highly productive rusher for a total of 13 seasons in the NFL, but was also an outstanding blocker and receiver out of the backfield, as well as an accomplished passer on option plays (he was even the club’s emergency quarterback). He led the NFC in rushing for five straight years, despite being part of a lackluster offense that had opposing teams keying on him, and totaled 10 thousand-yard rushing seasons. Payton was a consensus first-team All-Pro five times and was chosen to nine Pro Bowls. The even-tempered player known as “Sweetness” was also an unselfish team leader and hard worker, and was popular not only with Bears fans, but throughout the league. He retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards and also topped the list in carries (3838) and rushing TDs (110); his total of 125 touchdowns ranked second. Payton also caught 492 passes for 4538 yards and exceeded 2000 yards from scrimmage in four seasons. The Bears retired his #34 and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1993.
MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).