By Brett Johnson aka Chargerfan46

Back in the early ‘70s I was the typical kid who got a pack of cards and looked at them for a little while. They then went straight to the spokes on my bike. To hear that sound and feel so cool riding down the street was something to remember. It wasn’t until the late ‘70s that I unknowingly started collecting. I played Pop Warner football and at our end of the year banquet, my parents (who were in charge of the banquet) thought it would be fun if each player were given a pack of football cards. I remember looking at the cards in a different light. I connected them to the sport I loved, and still love, and they took on a whole different meaning. In my pack I received a rookie card of some guy named Walter Payton. For whatever reason I was drawn to that card more then the others. Growing up in Southern California I was a big Los Angeles Rams fan with Roman Gabriel as my favorite player. This all changed when they decided St. Louis was a better place. I then shifted my loyalties to the Chargers. Besides liking Dick Butkus I had no other reason to like the Bears, let alone an unknown rookie named Walter Payton.

I took this pack of cards home and put them in my special coffee can to keep safe. As I got more cards only the special ones found themselves there, with the others making that great noise on my bike. As I grew and got into high school I went away from collecting and really forgot about that Payton rookie. As his career took flight he became my new favorite player. He played the game with intensity, style and, most importantly, class.

In 1991 I had graduated from college and gotten married. When my wife and I settled into our new home I found that coffee can with my special cards in it. Once I pulled that Payton card out it was all over and my collecting frenzy began. I started a quest to own every Walter Payton card that had been produced. In those days this was still an affordable and possible task. When I completed my collection I decided to write him a letter thanking him for being a person someone could model themself after. He helped shape my life as a person, player and now a coach. I sent him a few extra cards that I had of him, not expecting anything in return. A few weeks later I received an extremely nice letter and an autographed card as well.

While my collection continues to grow and has branched out to include all Chargers players, autos of USC alums featured in their USC uniform, serial numbered and game used cards of each Super Bowl winning QB (or autos if they don’t have a game used), and numbered game used of the top ten yardage leaders of all time in rushing, receiving and passing, nothing can or ever will touch my Walter Payton collection.

Here is a picture of my Payton rookie, the auto and my cool Payton figure: