On this special day in which we acknowledge the sweethearts in our lives, I thought my sports blog today should remember the extraordinary NFL athlete Walter Payton known as Sweetness.
The adjective sweet should never apply when talking football. Except, that is, when referring to Chicago Bears great Walter Payton.
Respectfully and singly known as Sweetness, Payton also rushes his way into #21 in my sports comic book Favorite Single Named Athletes.
Payton’s nickname personified the type of person he was off the playing field. The Sweetness handle was given to him because of the former running back’s gentle nature and engaging, caring smile.
Mike Ditka Said Walter Payton Was Best NFL Player Ever
Former Bears coach Mike Ditka called Payton the greatest football player ever. Ditka also said that his star player was even a greater human being.
Few would argue with Iron Mike for making such an audacious claim. Payton’s legacy stills looms especially large both on and off the football field.
During his celebrated 13-year career, Walter Payton held numerous NFL records. They included career rushing yards, career rushing attempts, most yards in a single game, most career 100-yard games, most 1,000 yard seasons and several others.
In addition, Payton was named to nine NFL Pro Bowls and won two NFL Most Valuable Player awards. His Bears team also won Super Bowl XX in 1985.
Sweetness’ most significant accomplishments may have taken place off the gridiron. That’s where he touched countless lives. Payton’s impact has been so profound that the NFL renamed the Man of the Year Award after Sweetness, who coincidentally received the league’s highest honor in 1977.
Payton and his wife Connie started a foundation that has brought national awareness to the growing need for organ donations. Sadly, Payton died in 1999 following a struggle with a liver disease.
It’s ironic that a tough Hall of Fame running back who only missed one game in his illustrious 13-year career – playing in the unofficial NFL Black and Blue Division – would be called Sweetness.
In the case of Walter Payton, the Sweetness nickname couldn’t be any sweeter. It also couldn’t be more deserving.
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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!