Thursday, November 1, 2007

8 Yrs since Walter Payton Passed Away

Thanks to the guys over at BearsHistory and their great blog to remind me that 8 yrs ago today "Sweetness" passed away. Growing up in Chicago, I was lucky to be in the same city as two of the most awe-inspiring athletes of mine or any generation, Walter Payton and Michael Jordan. I remember sitting in front of the TV watching Walter literally carry the Bears. The Bears of the Payton era were for the most part not good, but without Walter they would have been awful. The Bears offense consisted of 5 plays, Sweep to either side for Walter, Counter to either side with Walter or the occasional Halfback throw (8 career Passing TDS). The opponent knew what was happening, Walter was getting the ball 9 times out of 10 yet he still ran for an average of 4.36 yards per carry (16,726 yds on 3,838 carries). There is not a running back today or ever that is not influenced or inspired by what Walter did. Barry Sanders walked away from the game, so Walter's record could stand that much longer.

I could watch Walter Payton highlights all day long, especially taking off from the 3 or 4 yard line and go horizontal jumping over an entire offense and defensive line and landing a couple yds deep in the endzone. Unfortunately he played the days before sportscenter, the internet or the NFL ticket, living in Chicago I was blessed to have the opportunity to see him play every Sunday. The Youtube clips of his highlights would rival any other person in the history of sports.

He was a gentleman on and off the field, always with a kind word and soft heart. The words I or others have typed about him, will never do the man justice. I can't find the quote but at his public funeral at Soldier Field, the Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke, his eulogy went something like this, "On your tombstone, there is the date you are born, the date you die and a hyphen between them. Men are judged by what they do during that hyphen" Jesse Jackson then went on to describe the many humanitarian things Walter did and touching briefly on his on the field accomplishments. The NFL Man of the Year Award is named after Walter Payton and it "recognizes a player for his community service activities as well as his excellence on the field."

I could go on and on, but instead one more video, this one of just highlights, I have seen it dozens of times and will watch it dozens more.

RIP Sweetness

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