Why do running backs no longer do the Walter Payton leap over the goal line?

Payton was the best at this maneuver, and it was virtually unstoppable.

I’m a Lions fan (yeah, go ahead, laugh) and during the Billy Sims era he frequently did the goal line leap for touchdowns as well.

It seemed to be a relatively common practice up to a point, but now you almost never see it. (I can’t remember seeing it any time, in any game, in recent memory.)

What happened?

I don’t recall a time where defenses started consistently stopping it. Indeed; what I see most often these days is teams trying to ram it in on the ground between the tackles and getting stuffed at the goal line.

Since this is essentially a Game questions, let’s move to the Game Room.

samclem Moderator, General Questions

Hines Ward made a real pretty leap over a defender in the Monday night game against the Broncos for the final Steelers score.

Does this count?

Last Saturday somebody on California leaped into the endzone, got bumped by a defender, and ended up landing on his head and spending the night in the hospital with a concussion. Maybe other players are too afraid of something like this happening to them.

It’s pretty common to see a receiver or running back go high to leap over one or two defenders in the open field at the goal line. I believe the OP is asking about running backs doing a leap over the scrum at the goal line on a short yardage run, which you don’t see much.

I just looked through some Payton highlights on youtube to find some examples (check 0:35, but turn down the audio). How the heck did he get away with waving the ball around in one hand like that? Run like that these days and you’ll get stripped every other play.

Marcus Allen did it a lot too. Often you’ll see a RB on 3rd/4th and short just butt into the line, and not take the air option. Perhaps it is too risky, to body if not to team…

I think LBs have gotten better at timing their leaps to prevent this. Once you leave your feet your at the mercy of the defense (you can’t get any more drive out of your legs so if you are met in the air by someone with equal or better momentum you are going to get pushed back). Seems I’ve seen more occurrences of a RB being met by a LB than scoring that way recently, but that could just be confirmation bias. Also, I think RBs, for the most part, have gotten a bit bigger so they want to be able to keep driving their legs.

I suspect that may be part of it.

Just for sake of discussion, according to Pro Football Reference, the three RBs who have been mentioned in this thread so far:
Walter Payton: 5’10" 200 lbs. (and, from what I’ve read, both of those numbers are inflated)
Billy Sims: 6’0" 212 lbs.
Marcus Allen: 6’2" 210 lbs.

Payton was a freak of nature; even at his size, he was very strong, and had tremendous leaping ability. He was also probably the best placekicker on the Bears, but legend has it that the Bears didn’t want to see their star RB with his leg up in the air, waiting for someone to run into him.

Remember Chargers Gary Anderson’s incredible flying somersault TD? '86 or '87, I think.


Found it: 9-7-86 in San Diego, against Miami.

Mike Alstott started doing this after his neck injury and had success with it.

A couple of good examples here at the 2:30 and 4:11 marks.


Also, both offensive and defensive linemen have gotten much bigger. It’s a lot harder to jump over a pile of 6’6" 300 lb guys than a pile of 6’2" 250 lb guys. There’s just a lot more to jump over.

With the Chefs, Marcus Allen was the king of slipping through the tiniest of holes between the tackle and guard.

Mike Bell did it this year for the Saints in one of the early games…may have been against Philly.

Thanks for that youtube clip. Payton sure was fun to watch, even for this non-Bears fan.

This is one of the reasons why Adrian Peterson is so fun to watch. Even though my divisional rivalry forces me to hate the Vikings, he really does remind me of Payton at times, as well as Barry Sanders. To watch Peterson run right up to his blockers, bounce back when the get stuck, spin around to find another lane, hop over a defender… it’s just fun.

Alas, he’s probably going to get killed out there soon enough, as there’s a reason why most RBs these day run right behind their lines as often as possible…

Herschel Walker was damn good at that play. It happens at the 2:03 mark of the video.

Not to hijack the thread, but as you might expect, rugby got there first - in the 1930s a guy scored twice in an international match after jumping over the last tackler. However, a couple of guys then died trying it when they didn’t quite make the jump and broke their necks, and it has been outlawed ever since. Quite surporising it is still legal in gridiron, IMHO.

Jahvid Best. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/football/ncaa/11/08/California.Best.ap/index.html?eref=si_mostpopular

Hurdling another player was illegal in college up until a few years ago.

Are you sure about that? I know is was legal to cross the LOS when blocking a kick, (up until about 4 years ago) but I didn’t know the rules had changed in any other way.