Walter Payton on The Beat Chicago's #sportsbreak

Walter Payton

Walter Payton’s greatest moments on the field


There was something about Walter, a warmth, he hung out with people, loved people and, he was, in our eyes, the greatest running back to ever play the game.

Many moons ago, I worked at a club in Schaumburg Il. Walter owned competing clubs. He’d come to where I was working at least once in a week to hang out, (chat with people as was his nature to do back then).

It was a great time for me. So many celebrities and athletes came into the club. The Fridge and his wife (about 4ft 10) would come in with Mongo and his wife early on Saturday night (off-season) to have appetizers and champagne, Mongo loved what I was playing one night so he comes to the booth, asks if he can see my records, he comes in the booth, next thing ya know, he’s playing The Isley Brothers etc., my kind of guy! Neil Anderson, Maurice Douglass, a great guy whom I also looked forward to talking to, he was a blast and an incredibly hard hitter. There was Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, BJ Armstrong standing in front of me scoping the club, waiting for me to hand over their new mixtapes.

Then there was Walter. Walter would come to the DJ booth. If he had a bag or his jacket, a toy for the kids, he’d leave them with me. We’d talk a bit about many things like family, (he adored Brittney, recently born and Jarrett) movies, cars, stocks, the market (I was also a stockbroker at the time and he’d do some business with me), music, anything but football. It was like hanging with my crew, he’d bust my balls, I’d joke with him, he was so good-natured and one helluva prankster

On occasion he’d ask me what I was playing and if his DJs played it. I’d tell him, “probably not, you guys play all that honky shit.” Sometimes it’d come up where he’d ask me if I’d ever considered coming to work at one of his properties. My answer was always jokingly, “no, you guys do that yuppie stuff, I love playing what I play here.” While I was flattered, I never wanted to show it because he seemed to like the fact that I talked to him like a friend, not a fan. I understood what his clubs were, what their target demo was and I’d never have the freedom to play as I played where I was at that time but it was always flattering, even though I’d never showed it.

Those were the types of experiences I had with Walter, on the field he was a completely different human being.

Sal Amato

Walter was born in 1954 (actually, 1953, but that’s a whole other story), he danced on Soul Train and brought those steps to the gridiron. His smooth moves helped him leave Jackson State to dance his way to the top of all NFL running backs.

Early in his career, the man had no offensive line. What he accomplished is nothing short of a miracle at a time when the NFL was still a ‘physical’ league vs. what it is today.

Walter joined the lowly Bears in 1975, he was drafted fourth overall. By 1977, with little to no offensive line to speak of, Payton would win the 1977 AP NFL Most Valuable Player Award. In 1985, he and the Chicago Bears would decimate the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl 20.

Walter played for 13 seasons. He was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection. At one time, Walter held the records for career rushing yards, touchdowns, carries, yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards, and many other categories. He had rushed for at least 1,200 yards in 10 of his 13 seasons in the NFL. When he retired, he had the most receptions by a non-receiver, and had eight career touchdown passes.

Walter was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame that same year, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

At the end of the 1987 season, Walter retired and tended to his businesses and helping others and being a dad.

After struggling with the rare liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis for several months, Walter passed away at the age of 45 on Nov. 1, 1999 leaving behind his lovely wife Connie, son Jarrett and sweetheart daughter Brittney.

The NFL would honor him by making him the namesake of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Let’s close this edition of #sprotsbreak out with Walter speaking at his Hall of Fame ceremony below where a young Jarrett had introduced his dad for the ceremony and a Jarrett narrated piece [about his Dad] from an ESPN Events back in 2015 down in Orlando, FL.


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