walter payton
Walter Payton, Jackson State University Alumni (Ap Photos/John Swart)

“Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton”, a  biography about the late great NFL running back written by Sports Illustrated  columnist Jeff Pearlman is scheduled to arrive in bookstores across the county October 4th. This biography tells a somber and gloomy story about  the NFL Hall of Fame veteran, a story filled with drugs, infidelity and suicide.

Walter Payton was a starting running back at Jackson State University where he began to build his legacy. Nicknamed ‘Sweetness’, Payton broke the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns and amassed over 3,500 yards while attending Jackson State. In his thirteen years in the NFL, all with the Chicago Bears, Payton rushed for 16,726 yards and helped the Bears win Super Bowl XX in 1985. He was a two time NFL MVP in 1977 and 1985.

Payton was selected to enter the JSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1985, and was inducted  into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993. He died at age 45 due to bile duct cancer in 1999, and in the same year the NFL named its Man of the Year Award after Payton.

Claiming it to be the ‘definitive biography’ of Payton, Pearlman states that Payton abused drugs like Vicodin, Tylenol and nitrous oxide, a.k.a. laughing gas, attempted suicide and cheated on his wife for several years. The book says both Payton’s wife and his mistress stayed in the same hotel the weekend he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. The Payton family released this statement:

“Walter, like all of us, wasn’t perfect. The challenges he faced were well known to those of us who loved and lived with him. He was a great father to Jarrett and Brittney and held a special place in the football world and the Chicago community. Recent disclosures – some true, some untrue – do not change this. I’m saddened that anyone would attempt to profit from these stories, many told by people with little credibility.”