On November 1, 1999, the football community lost 45-year-old Walter “Sweetness” Payton to cancer caused by a rare liver disease in South Barrington, IL.
Payton was born on July 25, 1954 in Columbia, Mississippi. He attended Jackson State University where he played half back his freshman year, starting all four years and breaking nine school records. Despite scoring a NCAA record 464 career points, Payton was was never higher than fourth in Heisman voting. His desire to help people led him to study education, specifically to work with deaf students.
Payton was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1975, and stayed with the franchise for his entire 13-year career. He was an outstanding player on a mediocre team, breaking many NFL rushing and receiving records as well as being a major player in the 1985 Super Bowl Championship team.
Payton’s name lives on through the NCAA Division-1 most valuable player trophy and NFL man of the year award. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. His charitable legacy lives on through his wife who heads the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation, committed to “helping those less fortunate to find stability while providing positive opportunities needed to live their lives with dignity and pride.”
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