Payton died at 45 of bile duct cancer and liver failure in 1999 but remains one of the most idolized sports figures in Chicago history. He rushed for 16,726 yards and 125 total touchdowns in 13 NFL seasons and was named a first-team All-Pro five times. One of the most durable running backs in NFL history, Payton played in 186 consecutive games and retired in 1987 as the NFL’s leading rusher (his record was later broken by Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys).
Payton’s son, Jarrett, went on to play both college and professional football, spending four years at the University of Miami from 1999-2003. The younger Payton was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans in 2005, and after one year in the NFL, he headed to the Canadian Football League, where he played for the Montreal Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts.
As it turns out, Jarrett had the opportunity to try out for Chicago’s biggest rival, the Green Bay Packers, and he says he turned the Cheeseheads down.
ALL the latest Bears news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on Bears newsletter here!
Payton Intrigued the Packers After 2005 Season
Payton had a solid senior season with the Hurricanes, rushing for 985 yards on 182 carries (5.4 yards per carry) and eight total touchdowns. He didn’t get many chances to play during his first three years in college because of a stacked RBs room, but he made the most of his opportunities when they came.
“You need to understand who I was playing with at The U — my running back role was crowded with guys like Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, etc,” Payton said about his collegiate experience in 2016. “I worked hard my senior year and I got my opportunity. And when it came, I took advantage of it. I wanted to finish off my final year at Miami strong. I wanted to cement my own name with all the other greats at the University of Miami.”
He did just that, getting named MVP of the Orange Bowl in 2004, which Miami won 16-14.
He signed with Tennessee as an undrafted free agent, finishing his lone season with the Titans in 2005 with 33 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns (stats via Pro Football Reference). And, he said, after Tennessee released him, the Packers came calling.
No Way the Name ‘Payton’ Would Ever Be on a Packers Jersey, He Says
“When I was released by the Titans, the Pack called my agent to see if I would come in for a workout for their practice squad,” Payton revealed via Twitter on July 19, adding: “I turned it down because there was NO WAY Payton was going on the back of GB jersey.”
The CFL was more attractive, he said in the video attached to the tweet, than wearing green and gold would have been.
The Bears have been on the short end of their rivalry against the Packers for the past few decades, losing six in a row dating back to 2018 and 11 of their last 12.
Despite Green Bay’s recent dominance, it’s clear Jarrett doesn’t regret his decision.
Follow the Heavy on Bears Facebook page, where you can weigh in on all the latest Bears-related breaking news, rumors, content and more!