" I could see him standing right in front of me," Payton said. "He was right there giving me the strength to get up. Deep down inside, I really believe he was watching over me. He saved my life."
That person pushing Payton to get up? No other than his father-former Chicago Bears running back and Hall of Famer Walter Payton. Walter Payton may have lost a battle with a serious illness several years ago, but his son is doing everything to keep his memory alive.
"No question he came through for me when I needed it the most. I am so blessed to be here breathing today. And there is no doubt that it's beacuse of him," Payton said.
Forget that he credits his famous father with keeping him alive that fateful day in which he and two other UM players were involved in a single car accident. Forget for a minute that Jarrett has conversations all the time with his 'old man'.
Although Jarrett was too young to appreciate most of his father's accomplishments on the football field, which included a rapid climb to the top of the NFL's all-time rushing yards list, he developed a special bond with him. One that to this day still exist.
"By the time I was 10 or 11-years-old, I could understand what my father meant to the world of professional football and to so many people around him. I remember going to the games and being on the sidelines."
But it was the little things that Jarrett will never let go. The things that father and son shared away from the brlight lights and glitter that is professional football.
The little things like watching game film with his father and getting first-hand tips. Like going out for ice cream, although the weather in Arlington, Illinois wasn't very conducive to vanilla or chocalate. Something as simple as tossing the football around in the backyard made their relationship even stronger.
That is why little Payton believes in his 'heart', he won't be left out. Jarrett is drawing from that strength to realize his dream of making an impact on the University of Miami football team. Not only latch on as he a second or third-stringer.
Walter Payton taught Jarrett plenty of valuable lessons, but there is one that he won't soon forget. One that drives him to be the best.
"My father told me all the time to never settle for second best," Payton said."You either try to your best or don't try at all. I believe in my heart that I'm going to contribute and help this team win. I know I have the ability to be a successful player at the University of Miami."
No matter how the sophomore turns out during his stay in Coral Gables, Jarrett may never stop hearing what he hopes one day will go way-the comparisons to his father. He knows that no matter what he does they will always be somewhere near.
"I can only do what Jarrrett Payton is capable of. I want to establish myself as my own person," Payton said. "I can only try to the best of my abilities."
So far, Payton found obstacles in his way in trying to display those abilities at Miami. Last season Payton suffered a foot injury that forced him to miss spring game. Payton was redshirted for the season, although the decision to miss the season was not medically related. As a freshman in 1999, Payton played sparingly in seven games.
And with the slew of running backs on the UM roster, Payton could encounter some problems in getting on the field a lot. But according to Payton he will find a way.
His father wouldn't want it any other way.
"He's looking down on me," Payton said. "We're gonna get it done."
Remembering a legend
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