“It is every athlete’s toughest decision. How do I leave the game? Do I hang on as long as I can and enjoy this, or do I walk away while I’m near the peak of my career?” (132)
The book Never Die Easy is an autobiography of Walter Payton. The first half of the book was all about his accomplishments in the NFL. It went through his college seasons and his 13 seasons in the NFL with the Bears. The second half is about what he did after he retired. This part is just as interesting as the first half because you learn more about the type of person Walter was. He gets the nickname Sweetness not only his likeable personality but also his charitable work.
Walter Paytons retirement was not a major surprise to anyone. His last season he signed a just one year contract and this made it obvious that he would retire after that season. It was a very hard decision for him to make. He had been playing football for the last 20 years and now he will leave it all behind and start a new path to his life. I can imagine how he felt after he retired because I just finished my senior year of football. He had a decision to keep playing or not but I did not. Senior year is such a sad time because it is the last time for everything. I missed football the day after the season ended and Walter felt the same way. I bet it was much harder on him though because of how much larger of an impact it had made on his life. After his last game at Soldier Field he just sad on the bench. Even though they had lost his last game he enjoyed it. When asked why he just sat there for hours after his last game he said it so he could experience everything. He wanted a picture that he could remember forever but most important of all he did not want to let go. He did great things on the field and now that that was over he started doing great things off the field.
Walter started two charities. One was for Christmas toys and the other was for college tuition, but both were made for the same goal. Walter grew up as a poor kid in Illinois and he knew what it was like see kids that never had the opportunity like he did to have a chance to go to college and he saw families who could not afford Christmas presents. From these experiences he stated a toy drive that gave toys to kids in poverty that would otherwise not get presents for Christmas in the state of Illinois. When he was alive nobody knew that he had started this charity because Walter wanted the charity to stand alone. This charity still goes on today and provides hundreds of kids with presents each year. His biggest charity is called “Team Sweetness.” This is a charity that raises money to help underprivileged and neglected kids in Illinois to go to college. Each year over a million dollars is raised and is given out through scholarships. I think these actions show what type of person Walter was. He used his talent and success to give back to kids who were just like himself growing up. He life was going great until 1998 when his life was turned around.
In 1998 he was diagnosed with a liver tumor. This was causing him extreme pain at times and it caused him to lose a ton of weight. He became tired and his priorities in life started to change. He first tried to keep his sickness private but once he found out he could help others he decided to share the news. He became an advocate for organ donation in hopes of helping others get their needed organs. He even did a commercial to spread awareness for this. The next year he died at the age of 45 from his liver tumor and this also helped spread awareness for organ donation.
After walter died he had two memorial services. One for his family and close friends and another for the public at Soldier Field. Thousands of people filled the stands of the place where he played his last game and he was remembered for all of his accomplishments. Walter did not consider his 110 yards, 16,728 yards, or his super bowl championship his biggest accomplishment. He realized that life was about much more than football. He helped other kids who needed it most. I enjoyed this book because is was great to see how one man changed the lives of many. He became a hero for many and he never lost sight of what was important. Today many professional player get caught up in themselves and they forget about all the people that could use their help. Walter did the best of his ability to show kids that they can succeed in life no matter their background.