NFL’s Man of the Year Award

A while back, I read Walter Payton’s biography. I didn’t watch a whole lot of football growing up, and honestly the Bears of the 80’s is only a dim memory from my childhood. But I knew of the legend and reputation of the man. I knew that he was the all-time NFL rushing leader, I knew that he was part of the ’86 Super Bowl-winning Bears, and I knew that they name the Man of the Year award after him. And I have seen many a highlight real with “Sweetness” over the last twenty years as I’ve become an avid fan of the NFL.

What I didn’t know, until I read this book, was the struggles that Walter Payton had in his personal life, particularly in his marriage. The biography I read was written posthumously, but it sounds like it was a well-known fact that Walter was unfaithful to his wife. And not just a few indescretions… the book details several long-term extra-marital affairs that he engaged in, and the story of an illegitimate child.

“Walter said he couldn’t see him . . . it would be too hard. I showed him pictures and he had a tear in his eye. Then he left and never looked back.” Two months later, on March 15, Connie gave birth to Brittney, the couple’s second child. The arrival was all over the news, and images showed Walter gazing lovingly toward his little girl. Before long, Payton would be named Chicago’s Father of the Year by the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. He accepted the award.”

And this is the man that the NFL memorializes with their Man of the Year award? According to Wikipedia, The Walter Payton Man of the Year award is given annually by the National Football League honoring a player’s volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field. ( But what about his infidelity? Not that Walter Payton didn’t do many other great things for his community and his family. But isn’t his legacy tarnished because of his affairs? Couldn’t the NFL find someone of higher integrity to name the award after?

Now, I’m reading Emmitt Smith’s book, Game On. I was following the NFL for most of Emmitt’s career, and have always had tremendous respect for him – as an athlete and as a man of integrity. I’ve long considered him one of the true good guys in the NFL. And that’s why I was surprised to read this quote from Emmitt: “I may have surpassed Walter’s rushing record, I will spend the rest of my life trying to live up to that man’s character.”

Unless Emmitt’s hiding some affairs of his own (which I highly doubt), I would say he’s already surpassed it. I’m frustrated that the NFL and a good chunk of our society turns a blind eye to infidelity. I remember all the hoopla around Steve McNair’s death. But take a look at how he died? Is it just me? I think the NFL’s Man of the Year award should be renamed to honor someone else… maybe even Emmitt Smith.


  1. keeper December 29, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Your remarks are exactly correct. The first institution in society was the family (Adam and Eve). We should always pay attention to a man’s fidelity to his family. Emmitt Smith’s character is displayed by his family watching him on “Dancing With the Stars” and his mannerisms with his dancing partners. A first class gentleman all the way. And he’s easily a man who has cherished his home, wife, and children. That’s the real record that God honors. But does Emmitt himself recognize the chasm in importance between his achievements on the field and his achievements in his home?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0


  2. Scott Whetstone November 4, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Enjoyed your perspective. It’s funny how an image is cultivated in the sports world. I hear cliche’s like “he brings his lunch pale to practice,” or “He’s the first in and the last to leave.” Once we hear that we tend to think this must be the person that embodies the work ethic our parents taught us. Usually nothing could be further from the truth. It’s usually someone has lived an entitled like since junior high school that rarely paid the consequences for their actions. They can afford great lawyers and agents to protect their false image. if they can run for 100 yards a game and seem positive well then they just walk on water. Especially if they wear our colors! I’ve learned the hard way. Sports is the worst place to find a role model. My dad and Jesus Christ are my role models period.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Name *
Email *