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Never Die Easy, Walter Payton

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As Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys approaches Walter Payton’s rushing record, perhaps now is a good time to know what kind of man he’s taking the record from.

Walter Payton was the heart and soul of the Chicago Bears during his career there, demonstrating what hard work, intense training, and being a team-player can do in the long run. He shall always stand up as a giant compared to the superstar riff-raff that occupy the football headlines of today, not just for his rushing records or blocking success or ability to play any position on the field in a league of specialists and prima-donnas… but for who he was and what he stood for.

He was there to play.

Never Die Easy was supposed to be Walter Payton’s autobiography, but his rapid decline in health turned it into a eulogy and a tribute to the selfless and giving man too.

Interviews with his closest friends, team-mates, family and business associates fill in the gaps of his life and show us a glimpse of the true generosity and caring of the man behind the helmet. The effort he put into his charity work was surpassed only by the effort he made into making sure it was all anonymous… until his humility was surpassed by the recognition that a greater good could be done if he lent his name to the program.

His desire to be a private individual never got in the way of what he thought was his obligation to the fans and the kids who looked to him as a hero and he’d always take time out to sign an autograph or wait a few minutes after a game or practice session to talk with someone. I know this because I have his autograph from after a practice session many years back and, unlike other players who weren’t pleased at the prospect of being delayed on their way home from a tough session, he was all smiles and asked each boy or girl if they were having a good time there.

Like Michael Jordan after him, Walter Payton left his career still strong and on top of his game because he wanted to go out at his best and be remembered for it. There’s a lot to be learned from his experiences in retirement from the game for others… leaving something you’ve worked your whole life at doing completely cold turkey is a hard and difficult thing to adjust to. He was also promised many opportunities for team ownership, and he teaches us a valuable lesson in the evils of greed as he holds his angry partners up as an example.

Even if you’re not interested in football, sports or Chicago, you can still learn something from Walter’s tale and those who help him tell it in this chronicle. Even in his decline and passing, he never gave up and showed compassion and cheer despite his sickness. The final chapters chronicle his passing and the services held for him memory, and they give a glimpse into how he touched each person in his life that was close to him. The parallels between his son’s speech inducting him into the Hall of Fame and the man he had become in saying goodbye to his father are priceless.

How will others speak of you when you have run your last yard?

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About Laurence Simon

  • Eric Olsen

    Very thoughtful and touching L, thanks.

  • mason stewart

    great story

  • never knew this book existed.