Walter Payton's Hall of Fame speech

SportsFootballColleges and UniversitiesEducationChicago BearsJim FinksNFL

Thank you. Thank you. You know when I first got here, we made a wager who would be the first one to break down in tears and I was the first one to say that I wouldn't and I was the first one to say how strong I was and everything else. As it goes to show that a lot of times when you are amongst your peers such as these great athletes, you try to be something that you not. And after hearing my son get up here and talk, I don't care if I lose the bet.

You know when you first get up here the first thing you do is thank a lot of people for putting you here because as the previous inductees and I am sure Coach Walsh will say, we are not standing up here because of our own merit, because of something we did by ourselves. Football is a team game and it takes everyone on that team to make a product such as these Hall of Famers that are sitting under this tent and the ones that are being inducted today. And they will be the first ones to say, that when they stood up here and accepted being inducted here they did it with a great deal of embarrassment because you were pointing all the accolades towards them and they realized in their hearts that there were teammates that threw blocks and caught passes and talked to them when they were down.

There were high school coaches such as Charles Boston that took me under his wing and taught me the fundamentals of football. And when I went to college there was Robert Hill who took me there and he showed me what hard work and determination would do if you put forth the effort and you take a little time. They would stand up here and tell you that everything that they had on paper and everything they had in their hearts did not come from them solely alone, but it came from the number of people that have helped them and have met along the way such as I. Every guy, every offensive lineman that played from the Chicago Bears helped me get that 16,000 and I thank them.

When you stand up here and you give talks and you give your acceptance speech, there is humorous things that come to mind. One of them is my sister and my brother, Eddie Payton and my sister Pamela. Because when I was growing up I was the baby and when they had to clean the house on Saturdays and do things when Mom went to work and said, 'I want this house clean when I get back,' hey I was the baby I didn't have to do this. So these guys beat me up. That's the reason why I had the moves that I did because when you have an angry sister and angry brother chasing you with a broom and a wet dish rag, you tend to pick up moves you never had before. I want to thank them for being a part of my life and helping me to be here because they are as much to be here as I am.

Also, there are a lot of people that I can name, but I won't do that because when you do that you leave out people that are close to you and I said earlier if I named all the people that have been influential in my life I would be up here beyond the eight minutes and eight days. But you know there is somebody very special, my mom. Because she was the one alone with my father who passed away in 1978 that instilled in me what you see here today, some of it good and everything that is bad I earned on my own. And I want to thank her for not giving up on me and keeping me close to her and giving me all that extra push that a son needed who was very curious about life. In other words, she is the one who taught me the basics of what true values are all about.

And you know, there was a guy who was supposed to be here today to co-introduce me with my son. Mr. Jim Finks who is having a bout with lung cancer and I want him to know that our prayers are with him because he was the guy who gave me my start. He was the one who called me when I was at Jackson State University the day before the draft and he asked me a question and said, 'Walter, this is Jim Finks, how would you like to play for the Chicago Bears?' My answer to him was, 'Jim, I will play for anybody.' And that was the way I felt at that particular time and I think if I would have answered that question any different than the way I did, I probably would have been playing for someone else maybe even Pittsburgh. But blessings come and blessings go.

The thing I am most proud of and the thing I am most ashamed of they coincide with each other. You saw my son up here a few minutes ago, and believe me, I had a lump in my throat that was so big it was unbelievable. I also have a little daughter, Brittney Jeannette Payton. And I think about her also because, their mom was with me for those 13 years I played and believe me they were not good because I was not the easiest person to get along with. And because of my wanting to give to so many other people, sometimes you tend to neglect the people you truly love the most. And I want to stand up here and say that in this point of my life, that Jarrett, Brittney and your mom, you guys will not have to worry about anything in your life no matter what the situation or how it ends. Because just as running up that hill and trying to catch runners such as Jim Brown and Gale Sayers, motivated me to do more than I thought I possibly could do, you three will motivate me to make sure that your lives are happy and fulfilled.

I am going to close by saying life is short, it is oh so sweet. There are a lot of people that we meet as we walk through these hallowed halls, but the things that mean the most are the friendships that you meet and take along with you. I am happy to say that everyone that I have met in my life I have gained something from them be it negative or positive it has enforced and reinforced my life in some aspect. When you speak of role models, when we talk to our kids, everybody is a role model, everyone just as you look at a Michael Jordan to be the terrific athlete he is. And you look at a Pete Rose to be the terrific athlete he is and then he falls on hard times but when he played the game I got something from the way he played the game because he hustled every play and just because he had one mistake in his life am I supposed to throw back everything that I gained from him? You can't do that and I am talking to the kids. Everybody that you meet you can learn something from them. Everybody who comes into your life can influence your life as well, just has these people have, just as you have. Because the fans are what makes this game. Without you being out here and coming to the Hall of Fame, it wouldn't be professional football. So I stand here and I applaud you for supporting and staying with the National Football League and these players here. Thank you.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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