As hard as it is to believe, it's been 10 years since the death of Sweetness.
Sunday, on the 10th anniversary of Walter Payton's death, the Chicago Bears honored its legendary running back with a stirring, tearful halftime tribute. Payton's widow and two children were on hand and spoke to the crowd after a highlight video was played on the screens at Soldier Field. You can, and should, view the video here. It's great.
There are two other videos on that page also worth your time, particularly the one titled "Legacy". It's nice hearing the Bears current running back, Matt Forte(notes), talk about Payton. I like knowing that some young players have a sense of history. It's also nice that some coaches honor said history, Eric Mangini.
In the video shown on the Jumbotron, Payton's teammates and coaches discuss his work ethic, playful humor and the time he spent with fans. It ends with a Payton quote that many of today's players could take to heart:
"Never die easy. Why run out of bounds and die easy? Make that linebacker pay. It carries into all facets of your life. It's okay to lose, to die, but don't die without trying, without giving it your best."
Payton, who broke the NFL's rushing record in 1984 (which was later surpassed by Emmitt Smith), died Nov. 1, 1999 at the age of 45. The public had known Payton was ill and in need of a liver transplant, but was unaware that he also had a malignant tumor on his bile duct.
If you don't think Payton was the greatest running back who ever played, you at least know he's in the discussion. And as nicknames go, Sweetness was undoubtedly at the top of the list.
- Walter Payton