Friday, October 7, 2011

Walter Payton's Legacy Lives On


Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey's book called Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and Devout discusses people he has known who were superb athletes who led exemplary lives of faith. In Sports and Faith McCaskey examines the life of athletes, coaches and everyday people who inspired him in his personal and professional life. People like the Reverend "Coach" Wayne Gordon founder of Lawndale Community Church/Community Center and Father Ignatius McDermott, the legendary skid row Priest, who also happened to be Chicago's number one Sox fan, fill the pages.

As a spokesmen for the Chicago Bears, McCaskey found himself often at podiums honoring the greatest of all Chicago Bears, Walter Payton. McCaskey himself was a "victim" of Payton's boyish sense of humor and an admirer as well. 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. 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. Superhero on the field, certainly human at home, he continues to inspire. His children, wife and brother continue to advance great causes in his memory.

Chicago's Walter Payton College Preparatory High School honors his memory in a living way (school photo above) as perhaps no other institution can. The school colors are the Chicago Bears orange and navy blue, and the school team name is the "Grizzlies." Regardless of what reference you use, Payton Prep is one of the best schools in the country and certainly among the very top in Illinois. Payton Prep continues to do honor to one of Chicago's favorites.

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