Originally posted on last year in BearsHibernation.com:
November 1st marks the 11th anniversary of Walter Payton's death. I will
always remember where I was and what I was doing that night. I came
home around 5:30PM from yet another uneventful college day, tossed some
leftovers in the microwave and turned on the TV. At the time, I was
paying more attention to my food as I didn't want it to overheat. Then I
heard his name mentioned on TV.
As soon as I heard his name, I knew what happened. I couldn't believe
it. I was stunned. How could this happen to Walter Payton? Being born
and raised in Chicago, as a sports fan, I was spoiled by being able to watch Michael
Jordan every night and Walter Payton.
While MJ was a global icon but Payton was the heart and soul of the city.
Earlier that year, Walter announced that he had been diagnosed with
bile duct cancer. Not knowing the severity of the disease, I always
thought that if anyone could beat it, Walter could. He fought for every
inch on the football field so I was almost certain that he would win the
fight against this disease but he wasn't able to get an organ donation.
I always regretted not making it to the ceremony at Soldier Field the weekend after he
died. The following week, I went to the DMV to sign up to be
an organ donor, something Walter needed to survive.
That same weekend, the Bears went to Green Bay. I can still remember
the game, as it was the most emotional game I have ever watched. It was
your typical Bears-Packers game in which every yard and inch was fought
They beat the Packers on a miraculous field goal block by Bryan
Robinson as the clocked winded down. There is no doubt, that Walter
Payton lifted B-Rob just enough to block the field goal attempt. I still
get the chills just thinking about the circumstances under which that
game was played and how the Bears won.
The following weekend, back at Soldier Field, the Bears lost to the
Vikings in the "official" Walter Payton game. It was an emotional past
couple weeks for the Bears, the fans and the city and I guess the
emotion had taken its toll. Besides, the Bears weren't very good anyway.
I was just hoping for another victory against another rival in the
"official" Walter Payton game.
The reason why Walter was so special was not only because he of what
he accomplished on the field but also because of his presence off the
field. You will always run into someone in Chicago that had their own
Walter Payton moment. That's would made him different from other
athletes and celebrities. Many of them give the appearance of being
almost untouchable and it sometimes it seems like they have a sense of
entitlement that they deserve and you don't. It didn't seem that way
with Walter because he always made an effort to connect with others.
My moment with Walter came in the 80's at the Chicago Auto Show. My
family would go every year, especially when Walter was there. During an
appearance, my father asked the security guard if he could take a
picture of me with Walter. The security guard declined our request but
Walter saw us and signaled the security guard to let us through for us
to take a picture.
A year later, Walter was again at the Auto Show. This time, we
brought the picture with us and my father and I hoped to get the picture
signed. We found Walter and gave him the picture to sign. I was too
young to remember what his reaction was when he saw the picture, but
from what I could remember, it made him smile as it made me smile too.
Thank you Walter for everything you did for the Bears, the city and
for being an inspiration to everyone. As a kid, I watched you play and
you helped me believe that if I worked really hard, I could accomplish
almost anything. Your legacy continues to live with the Bears, the fans,
the city and your family.
Walter and Connie Payton Foundation: http://payton34.com
United Network of Organ Sharing: http://www.unos.org/
Walter Payton Cancer Fund: http://www.payton34.org/
Payton License Plate: http://www.library.sos.state.il.us/press/release/000809d1.html
Walter Payton Liver Center: http://www.walterpaytonlivercenter.org/