Not a big man for a RB, 5'10-5'11, 205 pounds or so, not even in the 1970s and 80s but the guy bench pressed. Somewhere around 400 pounds probably North of that, if you were going to try to tackle Payton, you had to try to tackle all of him and take those extra yards away from him , you had to beat him. Because he didn't give you anything, if there was an extra yard to get, he was taking it, you had to stop him to get that yard. Running out of bounds or going down, was for wimps, you had to take Walter Payton down.
I don't consider Walter Payton to be the greatest Running Back of all time, perhaps the greatest all around RB of all time. And there's a difference that I'll explain, Jim Brown is the greatest RB of all time and I wrote a blog about him last summer. Not the greatest runner but as far as running the ball, receiving the ball and of course blocking, at least as far as picking up blitzes. Sweetness was the best, if you put all of those things in one package, except for blocking you will not be a great RB in the NFL, if you can't block.
Because every time you are in the game, the defense will stack the Line of Scrimmage, knowing you won't pick up the blitz and will get to the Quarterback. You blitz Walter Payton, you might get knocked out of the game, because he'll hit you with his Rock Solid body. Walter Payton believed in two things when it came to football, play every play until the whistle blows and whatever it take to win, thats Walter Payton.
The one play that I believe defines how great a player Payton was, was a Monday Night Football game back in 1985, the Bears playing their Division Rival Vikings. Bears down late in the game, QB Jim McMahon drops back, looking to throw deep, Vikings are blitzing. You look at the highlights of that play, you see a big TD Pass from McMahon to I believe WR Willy Gualt. But if you look closely at that play, you see Payton taking the head off of a Vikings Linebacker. With a vicious block, Payton doesn't doesn't make that block, McMahon gets killed on that play and doesn't make the throw.
Thats Walter Payton, not the great runner, which of course he was but Walter Payton the great football player, doing whatever he could to help his team win. Team first, team last and everything in between with Walter Payton and what separates great players from very good players. When Walter Payton was drafted in 1975, the Chicago Bears were one of the worst teams in the NFL. And that includes the great history of course that they have, they didn't become good overnight but they were no longer a joke, because they added a few other players in the 1970s.
Like RB Roman Harper, WR James Scott, Safety Gary Fencik and a few others but they had Sweetness and his teammates knew how great he was and that told them, that if Payton is going to work that hard to be great, then they can at least work as hard as to be as good as they can be. Walter Payton changed the mindset for the Bears and they were no longer a joke after he got there.