Unfortunately he was lost too soon 12 years ago at age 46. He lost his battle to bio-duct cancer.
He spent all of his NFL seasons (13) with the Chicago Bears and missed only one game.
He was a star on and off the field. The Bears haven’t had a consistent runner since Payton.
Neal Anderson (1986-1993), Thomas Jones (2004-2006) and Matt Forte (2008-present) have had their moments.
Forte could be the longest tenured running back with the Bears since Payton if he stays healthy over the next four years.
Payton was ranked as the fifth best player of all-time by NFL.com.
Author Jeff Pearlman wrote Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton last November. A lot of controversy came from the book.
It was a great read in my mind. If you have any time to pick up a book this summer make sure you read Pearlman’s Sweetness.
Iconic. Strong-willed. Determined. Stubborn. Mostly, human. He had tough times, like we all do. But he fought and fought through them. I like to think of him at the end of his life, when he was dying but refused to tell people how dire it was. He convinced people he was holding a pager, one buzz away from a new liver. Was never true—he had cancer, and the liver would never come. Yet the man continued to do public service announcements about organ donations, because he understood the different he could make. To hell with Jim Brown or tearing up the Vikings for 275—that’s courage. I don’t think it’ll change perceptions, so much as educate and, hopefully, enlighten.
When asking Pearlman why he chose to write a book about Walter Payton, he had this to say to me.
When Walter was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, he talked about placing fourth in the 1975 Heisman voting. He placed 14th. He had the most famous nickname in football (Sweetness), yet nobody knew where it came from. Just a riveting, unique, enigmatic man.
We should all remember Walter as the great player and person he was.
Lets celebrate his 58th birthday the way he would want to, in Bourbonnais at the start of training camp.
Otis Wilson talks about the 85′ Bears and the trip to the White House last year.