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Walter Payton Award
The Sports Network established the Walter Payton Player of the Year Award in 1987, and it is presented annually to the most outstanding college football player on the FCS level. The winner is chosen by a nationwide panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries from the division. When the award was established, it was the only such award to be presented to an individual player in FCS football. It has since been joined by the Buck Buchanan Award, which was established in 1995 and honors the outstanding defensive player in the FCS and the Jerry Rice Award, presented annually beginning in 2011, honoring the outstanding freshman in the FCS.

Payton, who played collegiately for Jackson State, set the NCAA record for points scored in a career with 464. He scored 66 touchdowns for the Tigers, while rushing for 3,563 yards. Payton also kicked five field goals and 53 PATs in his four-year career at JSU. He set nine school records, six of which still stand today.

However, Payton's collegiate accomplishments pale in comparison to the numbers he posted in his professional career. Upon his retirement, he was the NFL's all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards, and the Chicago Bears' all-time leading scorer with 750 points, as well as the holder of eight NFL records and 28 Bears records. In 1977, at the age of 23, Payton became the youngest player to be voted NFL MVP. He added a second league MVP award following the 1985 season. During his 13-year NFL career, Payton was named to the Pro Bowl nine times. He also was named a member of the NFL's prestigious 75th Anniversary Team.

As active as he was on the field, Payton was equally active in charity work off the field. He was honorary chairman for the 1983 Heart Association Jump Rope for Health, and for the Illinois Mental Health Association from 1978 through 1980. Payton also was involved with the Boy Scouts, March of Dimes, Brian Piccolo Research Fund, United Way, the Peace Corps and the Walter & Connie Payton Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting neglected, abused and underpriveleged children.


Walter Payton Award
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