38. Walter Payton
The man whom fans and teammates affectionately referred to as “Sweetness” was anything but sweet on the field and in the gym, choosing instead to plow through defenders and reps with the same unrelenting force. Payton’s personal motto was “Never Die Easy,” which prompted the late Bears running back to take hit after brutal hit just to net a couple measly extra yards.
It worked—Payton finished his career in 1987 with an astonishing 16,726 total yards, good for second on the NFL’s all-time list. Payton’s intense offseason training also sparked his record rushing; according to some reports, he’d run sprints through sand traps and up slopes in the blistering Mississippi heat to prepare his legs for quick cuts.
Payton left the world at a too-young 45 (due to a rare liver disease), but his legacy and training regimen live on in some of today’s premier running backs.