Skip to content

NFL Films remembers Walter Payton

walter-payton Getty Images

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.

Permalink 22 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Chicago Bears, Rumor Mill, Top Stories
22 Responses to “NFL Films remembers Walter Payton”
  1. wawa33 says: Oct 12, 2011 3:51 PM

    Jeff Pearlman’s book is terrific; despite what Ditka says.

  2. jtbaudendistel says: Oct 12, 2011 3:51 PM

    Dude might have been the best ever. But even the greatest talents have liver just like the rest of us.

  3. mrconnors says: Oct 12, 2011 3:52 PM

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

  4. nikkodawg says: Oct 12, 2011 3:55 PM

    SWEETNESS!!

  5. broncobillie says: Oct 12, 2011 4:04 PM

    CAN’T WAIT! :)

  6. your6ringsaremeaninglessnow says: Oct 12, 2011 4:08 PM

    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.

  7. bradshawlives says: Oct 12, 2011 4:08 PM

    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.

  8. blackqbwhiterb says: Oct 12, 2011 4:09 PM

    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….

  9. buckybadger says: Oct 12, 2011 4:14 PM

    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.

  10. dbellina says: Oct 12, 2011 4:32 PM

    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.

  11. your6ringsaremeaninglessnow says: Oct 12, 2011 4:33 PM

    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.

  12. jdfrox says: Oct 12, 2011 4:42 PM

    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.

  13. granadafan says: Oct 12, 2011 4:53 PM

    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.

  14. pacificamjr says: Oct 12, 2011 5:00 PM

    not having Walter around anymore is a tough pill for any fan to swallow… here here, to Walter!

  15. 7thlombardiontheway says: Oct 12, 2011 5:34 PM

    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.

  16. jackmik says: Oct 12, 2011 5:51 PM

    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.

  17. tillihawk says: Oct 12, 2011 5:58 PM

    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 !!

  18. mezanine10 says: Oct 12, 2011 6:48 PM

    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.

  19. wyrdawg says: Oct 12, 2011 8:41 PM

    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.

  20. lookatthefarside says: Oct 13, 2011 12:22 AM

    I’d like to thank Technology for preserving Sweetness’ Greatness Forever!

  21. joetoronto says: Oct 13, 2011 5:42 AM

    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.

  22. paulieorkid says: Oct 13, 2011 11:26 PM

    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?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!