Famous pro football player, Walter Jerry Payton, also known as "Sweetness", was born today in 1954 in Columbia, MS. Payton gained the nickname "Sweetness" while playing football for Jackson State due to his skills on the field. He set many football records during his lifetime. Here are some facts about “Sweetness”:
v His first love was music! His first venture into sports began in the ninth grade as a long jumper at the then segregated John J. Jefferson School (the school merged with all-white Columbia High School in 1969). His older brother, Eddie, was the star running back of their football team. After Eddie graduated, the football coach asked Payton to join the football team. Payton agreed, but on his terms: that he could stay in the school band.
v During his high school career, Payton was selected for the all-conference team, Little Dixie Conference, and was subsequently selected for the all-state team.
v Upon graduation from Columbia High, Payton joined Eddie at Jackson State College where they both played football.
v Payton earned the title of Little All-American in 1974 after setting nine records at Jackson State College. He was named NCAA’s (National Collegiate Athletic Association) leading scorer with 464 points by the end of his senior year.
v Walter Payton was chosen by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 1975 NFL draft.
v He was named NFL MVP (Most Player of the Year) and Sporting News NFL Player of the year in 1977.
v Payton was selected to play in Pro Bowl from 1978-1981, and 1984-1987.
v He was named NFL Player of the Year in 1985.
v Payton retired from pro football in 1987 at the age of 33. He held the title of leading NFL rusher of all time with a career total of 16,726 yards until Fall of 2002 when he was surpassed by Emmitt Smith. He also established the Walter Payton Award in 1987, which is awarded annually to the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision of college football.
v He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
v He was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994.
v Walter Payton died at the age of young age of 45 on November 1, 1999 in Illinois. He was suffering from a disease of the liver called primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC, which caused him to develop bile duct cancer. He was survived by his two children, Jarrett and Brittney.
Would you like to learn more about Walter Payton through those that were a part of his life? Check out the book Never Die Easy: the Autobiography of Walter Payton by Walter Payton with Don Yaeger. This book started out as a work in progress by Walter Payton, but it was never finished. It was decided this book would be a memoir of sorts using his words, as well as interviews and stories from those who knew him best. By the way, we have this book available for checkout!
“Walter Payton.” Notable Sports Figures. Ed. Dana R. Barnes. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Gale Biography in Context. Web. 24 July 2012.
Encyclopaedia, Britannica. “Payton, Walter.” Britannica Biographies (2012): 1. History Reference Center. Web. 24 July 2012.
Payton, Walter. Never Die Easy: the autobiography of Walter Payton. New York, NY: Villard Books, 2000. Print