Walter Payton (July 25, 1954 – November 1, 1999) was an American football player who spent his entire professional career with the National Football League's Chicago Bears. Walter Payton was known around the NFL as "Sweetness". He is remembered as one of the most prolific running backs in the history of American football. Payton, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, once held the League’s record for most career rushing yards, touchdowns, carries, and many other categories. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Hall of Fame NFL player and coach Mike Ditka described Payton as the greatest football player he had ever seen—but even greater as a human being.
Payton began his football career in Mississippi, and went on to have an outstanding collegiate football career at Jackson State University where he was an All-American. He started his professional career with the Bears in 1975, who selected him as the 1975 Draft’s fourth overall pick. Payton proceeded to win two NFL Player of the Year Awards, and won Super Bowl XX with the 1985 Chicago Bears. After struggling with the rare liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis for several months, Payton died on November 1, 1999.
Payton was one of three children born to Edward Charles Payton and Alyne Payton in Columbia, Mississippi. His father was a factory worker who had played semi-professional baseball. Payton was an active member of the Boy Scouts, Little League, and his local church. At John J. Jefferson High School, Payton played drums in the marching band, participated in the track team as a long jumper, and sang in the school choir. Outside of school, he played drums in jazz-rock groups. During his first few years at high school, his older brother Eddie was on the football team, and Payton did not play partly to avoid competing with him. After Eddie graduated, the football coach asked Payton to try out for the team, and he agreed on condition that he be allowed to continue playing in the band.