The Maxwell Club of Philadelphia yesterday awarded the 1985 Bert Bell Award, for the National Football League player of the year, to the Chicago Bears' Walter Payton, the all-time leading rusher in NFL history.
Payton was a unanimous choice by the club's board of governors as the 27th recipient of the award given by the club of businessmen-football boosters.
Other finalists for the Bert Bell award were Marcus Allen of the Los Angeles Raiders, Roger Craig of the San Francisco 49ers and Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams.
During the regular season, Payton averaged 4.8 yards per carry, gaining 1,551 yards on 324 attempts and rushing for nine touchdowns. He also caught 49 passes for 483 yards and two scores. He helped lead the Bears to the NFC championship and a berth in the Super Bowl Jan. 26 against the New England Patriots.
"It is the intangibles that Payton brings to the Bears that really earned him the final selection," said club president Francis J. Bagnell. "He is truly the heart of that team and leads by example, giving his best every time he steps on the field."
Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent said today he has decided to play in Super Bowl XX rather than sit out because of a contract dispute.
"You can't pass up an opportunity like this. It's a challenge (for) me to play in it," Dent said before the team's scheduled practice at the University of Illinois in Champaign.
"Money means a lot, but this (playing in the Super Bowl) is an enjoyable feeling. You can't buy this. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I can't pass it up.
"A lot of people have been waiting for this situation in Chicago. The fans have been waiting for 20 years, the organization has been waiting 20 years. My mother and father have been waiting, asking about the situation. So many people want Chicago to be in the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl."