/Walter Payton selected for High School Hall of Fame

Walter Payton selected for High School Hall of Fame

This completes the circle of honor for Payton, a Columbia native and ex-Jackson State great. He was already inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame. These inductions were made before Payton, who was 44 years old, died from bile duct cancer and rare liver disease. Payton and the high school hall-of-fame are both late but better than never. Knowing that I had previously reported on Payton in high school, the Mississippi High School Activities Association asked me if I could write a nomination letter to him for the High School Hall of Fame’s screening panel. This was the most straightforward letter I’ve ever had the pleasure to write. It reads: To the NFHS Hall of Fame Screening Committee. It has been brought to my attention by Walter Payton, who was the greatest football player ever, that he has not been nominated for the NFHS Hall of Fame. Walter is the only person I believe deserves to be inducted into this prestigious Hall of Fame. He was my sports journalist starting at Columbia High School and continuing through his College Football Hall of Fame at Jackson State, then his Pro Football Hall of Fame tenure with the Chicago Bears. Walter deserves to be inducted into the national high school Hall of Fame as much as the college and professional football halls of honor. Walter Payton is the first sentence of any sports writer who uses a pencil, pad, and a pen to write about the greatest football players ever. Not only was he a great high school football player, but he also came to Mississippi during a time of great changes. Walter attended Columbia High during his high school years. His teammates, both Blacks and Whites, were proud to say that Walter was a major contributor to the peaceful and uneventful integration of the two races in Columbia, where they hadn’t met before. Walter Payton was a leader, not only on the field but in all other sports venues. He also excelled in the classroom. He was also a member of the Columbia High School band. His teammates and he showed everyone that both races could cooperate and play together. Although no statistics can be found from this time, I can report that Walter scored six touchdowns in his last game as a Columbia Wildcat. He could also throw, catch and kick, as well as block and tackle. He was the NCAA’s all time leading scorer and led the nation in scoring at Jackson State. He was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher and was later eclipsed by EmmittSmith. Walter’s character traits, which enabled him to be a Columbia High School student leader, were also evident in his professional and college careers. The NFL awards the Walter Payton man of the year award to a player who best exemplifies Payton’s dedication to charity and on-the field excellence. Walter Payton is a well-known figure in both the college and professional football halls. It is fitting that he be honored at the same level where he first demonstrated his extraordinary skills on and off the field. *** Payton will induct during the National Federation of High School Activities’ summer meeting in San Antonio. Payton will join 12 other Hall of Famer, including Thurman Thomas (an ex-NFL star) and Notah Begay (PGA golfer). Payton was more than just a Columbia football star. He was a band member and student leader. He averaged 18 points per basketball game, played baseball, and won the long jump at the MHSAA state track championships. Walter Payton could do anything and did it well.