Sunday, March 27, 2011

Appreciating Walter Payton


Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey's latest book called Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and Devout was pubished in January by Sporting Chance Press. Included in McCaskey's book are people he has known who were superb athletes who led exemplary lives.

According to McCaskey, "Walter 'Sweetness' Payton was the Bears' first round draft choice in 1975. He was simply the best football player ever. He could run, block, catch, pass, punt, and kick. There was nothing in football he could not do. He missed one game in his entire career and trained with legendary discipline and intensity coming into each training camp in superb condition.

In 13 seasons, he scored 125 touchdowns and he accounted for a record 21,803 combined net yards. He gained 100 yards or more from scrimmage in 108 games. Eventually, as Payton's stature grew, numerous organization especially in the Chicago area set out to honor him. In McCaskey's role with the Bears, he was asked to introduce and honor Payton at many gatherings. McCaskey saw first-hand in many different settings the love fans expressed for Sweetness and his affection for them as well.

Who can quantify what Payton meant and still means to the city of Chicago, the Bears and football fans--and others. He continues to inspire by his character.

Chicago's Walter Payton College Preparatory High School honors his memory in a living way (school photo above). The school colors are the Chicago Bears orange and navy blue, and the school team name is the "Grizzlies."

Payton Prep is home to a World Language Lab, Distance Learning Lab, Computer Centers, 10 science labs, an Astronomy Lab/Planetarium, a Media Retrieval Center, Recital Hall, and 17 classrooms equipped for computer use to ensure that students have access to the newest technology available.

In 2010, Walter Payton College Prep won the top award at the Intel Schools of Distinction contest in Washington, D.C. The Star Innovator Award is presented to the school that best exemplifies innovative math and/or science programs. In January, Chinese President Hu Jintau stopped by Payton Prep where he was serenaded by the Schools "Sounds of Sweetness" vocal ensemble.