Tuesday marks the birthday of Walter Payton, who played for the Chicago Bears and left a legacy not only in the Windy City, but also the entire National Football League.
“In 13 seasons with the Chicago Bears from 1975 to 1987, Payton literally rewrote the NFL record book with his ball-carrying feats,” according to a page dedicated to Payton on the Chicago Bears website.
Unfortunately, Payton, known by his nickname, Sweetness, passed away in November 1999 due to a rare liver disease and bile duct cancer.
Despite his great success in the NFL, Payton struggled with drug issues and often expressed suicidal sentiments, according to ESPN. His family situation also struggled and he was separated from his wife, Connie, following his retirement from football.
Payton’s wife admitted that he was not perfect, but she did not want the struggles in his personal life to discredit the impression he left on Chicago and professional football.
The Bears released a statement a few years back expressing a similar sentiment of remembering Sweetness for his strengths rather than his weaknesses.
“When we take the field each Sunday, we represent the great players like Walter who helped build the rich tradition of our organization,” the statement said. “Nothing will change our feelings for a man we have the deepest respect for and miss having around Halas Hall to this day.”
Here are some photos honoring the legacy left by Sweetness.