NFL Films remembers Walter Payton

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The NFL Films series A Football Life continues Thursday night with an installment on Walter Payton, and after getting an advance screener of the documentary, I can report that it’s a great look at a great player.

Payton has been in the news a lot lately because of Jeff Pearlman’s new biography, which includes passages that portray Payton abusing painkillers after his career ended. But Pearlman, who is interviewed in Walter Payton: A Football Life, says he admires Payton and wants his biography to give people a greater understanding of Payton.

The NFL Films documentary, which premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. Eastern on NFL Network, is less a “warts and all” look at Payton and more a hagiography. And considering the backlash against the Pearlman biography, a hagiography is probably what most fans want. Payton is portrayed as a small-town Mississippi guy who willed his way into the NFL, thanks in large part to his famously rigorous hill workouts, which are prominently featured. LaDainian Tomlinson refers to Payton as his role model and says he specifically built a house in San Diego with a hill in the backyard because he wanted to emulate Payton’s workouts, and Payton’s son Jarrett talks about how his dad put him through the paces of the hill workout and taught him to have a sense of accomplishment after finishing it.

“There’s nothing like when you get to the top of that hill, and you can look down and say, ‘Man, I just made it all the way up here,'” Jarrett Payton says.

We do see some of the darker moments of Payton’s career, including his disappointment that he didn’t score a touchdown in the Bears’ Super Bowl XX victory. Coach Mike Ditka calls his decision to give goal-line carries to William “Refrigerator” Perry at the expense of getting Payton a touchdown, “my biggest regret.”

But regrets are only a minor part of Walter Payton: A Football Life. It’s mostly a celebration of Payton’s brilliant career, complemented by awesome NFL Films highlights of some of the most impressive running you’ll ever see on a football field. For Payton fans, it’s not to be missed.

22 responses to “NFL Films remembers Walter Payton

  1. Everyone’s mad at Pearlman for telling the truth. I’m sorry everything about your “hero” was a lie.

  2. My first football memory was of the Fridge scoring the SB touchdown. I know so many people worship Payton, but I’m glad the Fridge scored the TD instead. Payton has had plenty of career accolades. No doubt though, if Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Jamaal Lewis, Emmit Smith, O.J. Simpson, Curtis Martin, Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk, and Edgerrin James had never played the game, Walter Payton would be the greatest RB of all time.

  3. mrsconnors says:

    “Everyone’s mad at Pearlman for telling the truth. I’m sorry everything about your “hero” was a lie.”

    Everything was a lie? So he wasn’t a great runner and blocker? And he wasn’t durable either? It was all a big lie?!? Damn, he had me fooled.

  4. For my money, he was the best running back ever, maybe tied with Jim Brown. Nobody else in the top 2.

    He had terrible offensive lines most years, too-a lot like today’s Bears, matter of fact….

  5. Per the usual, if you want the fluff watch the TV and if you want to be informed read the book.

    Payton was a great RB and a wonderful person but people can’t be mad at Pearlman because he wrote on honest book. As he said, “What is the point of writing history if it can only be about approved talking points?”.

    No one is perfect and it is the imperfections and the adversity that we fight through that makes us who we are.

  6. I wish I was old enough to actually watch him play and not just see the highlights. He was an amazing player and seemed like an awesome person too.

  7. Even if the book is true (who really knows), it’s not like he raped women on two separate occasions. What he’s been accused of is no worse than what Mickey Mantle has been accused of, yet no one ever holds that against Mantle. What I’m trying to say is Payton fans really shouldn’t care about this book. The book that came out years ago that said John Lennon was gay didn’t make the Beatles music suck.

  8. Named my dog Sweetness when I was a kid. Loved Payton. Cried the day he died. Looking forward to seeing this especially after watching the Kurt Warner piece from last week. That was outstanding. World needs more Kurt Warners and Walter Paytons, the men, not just the football players. Pretty cool that Warner won the Walter Payton man of the year award too.

  9. Great memories of watching Sweetness play. He was one of those once in a generation backs. I wasn’t a Bears fan, but I was a Walter Payton fan. He played the game right by going 100% every down and even getting in the face of linemen who would back down because of the respect for Payton.

  10. Greatest player to every put on a uniform. This is coming from the biggest hater on PFT. My only wish was that he was in Yellow and Black.

  11. My man…best all around football player to ever play the game.

    ask my 8 and 5 year old who the best football player ever is/was….they answer with Walter Payton.

    Have highlight DVDs and we watch them the night before they have their own football games.

  12. I am not a Bears fan but I have always said that if I could start a complete fantasy team of any players from any time period, I would start the team with Sweetness !!! The man could ball !!

  13. At the pinnacle of his pro career in the superbowl, he was mad that he didn’t get to score a TD? Give me a break.

  14. Really? You’re gonna take shots at Walter Payton? Were you even alive at that time?

    Geez folks, they renamed the NFL Man of the Year award in his honor. Go look that up….

    … Then again, you probably can’t start those guys on your fantasy football team, so you don’t care except for your smarmy comments.

    Dude’s trying to make a buck. Why not pick an icon like this? He’s getting ten tons of publicity for his book. He’s gonna sell it. Hell, he works for SI. They leak the dirty crap to get people talking about it. They know what they’re doing.

    What’s next? Lombardi was a closet cross-dresser? John Madden has people buried in his back yard? Al Davis was really a smurf terrorist? (wait, I might believe that one).

    My beef is:

    Instead of writing a book to teach new fans how to study the game, how to watch it, how to discuss it.. we’re getting TMZ in the NFL. Drivel. These comments prove it.

  15. The kids who watch today and think the RB’s they’re watching are all that should see this show.

    Payton was on a different astral plane.

  16. Why in the hell did they choose Ashton Kutcher?

    I get that he claims to be a Bears fan, but even Bill Murray would have been better.

    And just how absurd was it hearing how Kutcher warmed to Payton’s hard work passion, and adopted it for himself to enjoy his own personal success?

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