COLUMBIA, MS (WDAM) - Family members, friends, along with former teammates and coaches gathered at the Charles L. Boston Athletic Complex in Columbia on Tuesday, as representatives of the Pro Football Hall of Fame presented the Payton Family with a plaque of NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton.
The plaque, which displays the actual Walter Payton bust seen at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, honored Walter as a "hometown hall of famer," as the nine-time pro-bowler's career began on the very fields at Columbia High School.
Several of Payton's family attended, including his son Eddie Payton, mother Alyne, and wife Connie, and spoke of Walter's high character and relentless work ethic. Eddie Payton pointed out former Columbia Head Coach Charles Boston, who coached Walter, and told of how he personally thanked Boston for luring Walter away from drumming in the high school marching band and toward giving the gridiron a shot.
Walter's son Jarrett Payton, who played tailback for the University of Miami (FL) and enjoyed a brief stint in the NFL, stood with his mother by his side and spoke highly of his father's will to win, not only on gameday, but during the weeks leading up to gameday while playing for Columbia and Jackson State. His wife Connie said while her late husband is most deserving of the award as a football player, he's even more deserving as a person.
"Walter was very touchable," she said, "and people often talked about how he would even pull on the side of a highway and help fix a flat tire, just really took time for people. And I think about his nickname being sweatness, where I couldn't think of another person that the name fit more than Walter, because he truly was sweet in every sense of the word, and how he lived his life, how he played football, and how he treated people in general."
Touchable as a person, virtually untouchable as a running back. Payton played 12 seasons in the NFL, played for the Chicago Bears who captured at Super Bowl title in 1985, and won two NFL Most Valuable Player awards. Payton entered the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993, and the plaque in honor of Walter will remain somewhere in Columbia High School.