The Chicago Bears are one of a few teams who will be celebrating their 100th anniversaries soon and recently we’ve taken a look back at some of the greatest teams, players and quarterbacks to ever represent the Windy City.
Today, we dive back into Bears history and rank the three best running backs in Chicago’s history.
Bronko Nagurski, Neal Anderson, Rick Casares, George McAfee
Special mention: Brian Piccolo
There’s a reason the Chicago Bears organization named an award after Brian Piccolo.
During a time were segregation reached even NFL room assignments, Piccolo helped sparked a positive message that would echo throughout the league and country when he and teammate Gale Sayers became the first interracial roommates in league history.
Unfortunately, he would succumb to illness less than five years later but he would forever immortalized through the movie Brian’s Song, a movie that will bring tears to the eyes for even some of the toughest linemen in the NFL.
Piccolo will never be forgotten in Chicago.
3. Matt Forte, 2008-2015
Arguably one of the most underrated running backs during his time in the NFL, Matt Forte comes in at third on our list.
Taken in the second round of the 2008 draft, Forte was a starter for the Bears from his very first season, playing all 16 games in his rookie campaign. On a career-high 316 attempts, Forte would rush for 1,238 yards and eight touchdowns while also totaling 63 receptions and 477 receiving yards.
The Louisiana native was consistently productive throughout his eight years in Chicago. Forte led the Bears in rushing yards every single year and would rush for over 1,000 yards in five of those seasons. He was also named to two Pro Bowls as a member of the organization.
When his time in the Windy City ended, Forte had accumulated a total of 8,602 rushing yards, 45 rushing touchdowns, 4,116 receiving yards and 19 touchdown receptions.
2. Gale Sayers, 1965-1971
Known as the “Kansas Comet,” Gale Sayers was blazing football fields as early as his rookie year. But like most bright flames, his career went out prematurely.
Drafted fourth overall in 1965, Sayers’ seven years as a pro were nothing short of amazing. He won Rookie of the Year in 1965 and would be named to five All-Pro teams throughout his career. The two-time consensus All-American would also lead the league in rushing yards two separate occasions, first in 1966 and again in 1969, after he had returned from injury.
One of Sayers’ most notable statistics came in his punt and kickoff returns. The University of Kansas product averaged over 30 yards on kick returns and just under 15 yards on punts. In total, he ran back six kicks and two punts for touchdowns.
Although his career was cut short because of his knee problems, Sayers clearly was a generational talent and in 1977, his legacy was secured when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sayers’ career totals with the Bears are 4,956 rushing yards and 39 rushing touchdowns.
1. Walter Payton, 1975-1987
No. 1 on the list comes as no surprise. Walter Payton is considered as not the just greatest player and running back to play for the Chicago Bears, but many would argue that he might be the best running back ever.
Another fourth-overall selection by Chicago, Payton played four years of college ball at Jackson State and when he got to the NFL, he had to wait a few years behind Sayers before his pro career could take off. But when he did get finally get the chance, Payton ran with the football and never looked back.
Here are some of the accolades and records Payton amassed over his career.
Out of his 13 seasons, Payton was named a Pro Bowler nine times (1976-1980, 1983-1986) and was selected for All-Pro teams eight times. He would also lead the league in rushing attempts for four straight years from 1976-1979. The legendary running back would also win MVP honors in 1977.
Payton would solidify his legacy by winning his only Super Bowl in 1986 against the Patriots. Playing his entire career with the Bears, the Hall of Famer retired with a total of 16,726 rushing yards and 110 rushing touchdowns, second and fourth all-time in NFL history, respectively.
A great player and even better person, “Sweetness” will go down as one of the best to ever run a football.