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Payton, Walter

Walter Payton

1954-1999

American football player

Walter Payton, nicknamed "Sweetness" in college for his sweet and graceful moves on the football field, never lost that sweetness, even after he left the game. Never were Payton's qualities of grace and dignity more evident than in his final days, as he struggled unsuccessfully against a rare liver disease that progressed to the cancer of the bile duct that eventually took his life. Only 45 when he died in November 1999, Payton was, until the fall of 2002, the leading National Football League (NFL) rusher of all time, with a career total of 16,726 yards. Payton spent the final weekend of his life with former teammate Mike Singletary, who later told the Washington Times, "With all the greatest runs, the greatest moves I saw from him, what I experienced this weekend was by far the best of Walter Payton I've ever seen. As a person, he was a bright spot for any darkness that appeared." Payton's intensity and ferocity on the football field were balanced by a generosity of spirit and magnanimity off the field that were no less impressive. In his tribute to Payton, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue probably summed it up best: "Walter exemplified class, and all of us in sports should honor him by striving to perpetuate his standard of excellence. Walter was an inspiration in everything he did. The tremendous grace and dignity he displayed in his final months reminded us again why 'Sweetness' was the perfect nickname for Walter Payton."

Born in Columbia, Mississippi

He was born Walter Jerry Payton in Columbia, Mississippi, on July 25, 1954. The son of Peter (a factory worker) and Alyne (a homemaker) Payton, Walter Payton grew up in what he later called "a kid's paradise," close to the Pearl River and several factories where he and his siblings enjoyed playing hide and seek. His Baptist parents instilled both a strong religious faith and a desire to strive for excellence in all their children. As a boy, Payton often ran afoul of their strict rules, but he later described them as firm but fair disciplinarians. Years later, Payton told Philip Koslow, author of Walter Payton : "My parents spent a lot of time with us and made us feel loved and wanted. I didn't care much about what went on around me, as long as I was in solid at home."

By the time Payton was eight-years-old, his father, who worked in a nearby factory manufacturing packs and parachutes for the federal government, had saved enough money to move the family into a new home that had separate rooms for each of his children. Only a block away was the John J. Jefferson School, a segregated school attended by all of Columbia's African American children from grades one through twelve. Walter was a better than average student, but his greatest love was music, on which he spent more time than either his studies or sports. Much to the chagrin of his parents, he'd sometimes duck his chores at home so that he could dance or sing instead.

Joins Track Team as Long Jumper

Payton's interest in sports picked up in the ninth grade when he joined Jefferson's track team as a long jumper. He also played drums in the school's band. Although he was drawn to football, he didn't go out for the school team, on which his older brother, Eddie, was the star running back, because he didn't want his mother worrying about both her sons getting hurt. After Eddie graduated, Jefferson's football coach asked Payton, then a sophomore, to try out for the team. After winning a promise from the coach that he could stay in the band, Payton agreed. In his very first high school game, he ran 65 yards for a touchdown. In 1969, all-black Jefferson merged with all-white Columbia High School, and Payton quickly became the unchallenged star of the school's football team, scoring in every game of his junior and senior years. Looking back on Payton's high school football career, Columbia coach Tommy Davis said he could always count on Walter when the team needed to score. Three years in a row, Payton was named to the all-conference team, and in his senior year he led the Little Dixie Conference in scoring and was selected for the all-state team.

After his graduation from Columbia High, Payton joined older brother Eddie at predominantly black Jackson State College where together the siblings were stars in the college football team's backfield. At the end of Payton's freshman year in college, Eddie graduated and moved on to the NFL, leaving Walter alone in the spotlight. Payton proved himself a versatile player, serving as Jackson State's halfback, punter, and place kicker. He ended his sophomore year as the nation's second highest collegiate scorer. That same year he broke college records by amassing the highest number of points46in a single game. As a junior, Payton ran for a total of 1,139 yards and led the country in scoring with 160 points.

Chronology

1954 Born in Columbia, Mississippi, on July 25
1971 Graduates from Columbia High School where he starred in football
1971-75 Attends Mississippi's Jackson State College
1972 Scores 46 points in a single game
1975 Picked by Chicago Bears in first round of NFL draft
1976 Marries college sweetheart Connie Norwood on July 7
1985 Leads Chicago Bears to Super Bowl Championship
1987 Retires from professional football
1993 Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame
1999 Develops rare live disease and later cancer of the bile duct
1999 Dies at the age of 45 in South Barrington, Illinois, on November 1

Named NCAA Leading Scorer of All Time

After a grueling summer of training with brother Eddie in 1973, Payton, now a senior, returned to Jackson State stronger than ever. At the end of his senior year in football, he was named the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) leading scorer of all time with 464 points. Somehow, through it all, Payton managed to keep up with his studies, earning his bachelor's degree in special education in only three and a half years. It was during his college years that Payton picked up the nickname "Sweetness," which was to stay with him for the rest of his life.

In the first round of the 1975 NFL draft Payton was chosen by the Chicago Bears, making him the fourth player to be drafted overall. He successfully pushed for a signing bonus larger than that the Bears paid four years earlier to Archie Manning, a quarterback from the University of Mississippi. In the end, the Bears paid Payton $126,000. The Bears, which had had their last winning season in 1967, were hoping that Payton could help turn things around for them. Sadly, the dreams of a quick turnaround were not to materialize. Even with Payton energizing the Bears lineup, the team lost six of its first seven games. Slowed by an ankle injury, Payton played only sporadically in the first half of the season and missed one game altogetherthe only missed game of his career.

Payton snapped back in the second half of his rookie season as his ankle healed. At season's end, he led the NFL in kickoff returns and had amassed a total of 679 yards rushing, the highest for any Bears runner since 1969. During the summer following his first season with the Bears, Payton married Connie Norwood, his college sweetheart at Jackson State, on July 7, 1976. During Payton's second season, the Bears fared better than they had in eight years, with an even split of seven wins and seven losses. Had it not been for an injury he suffered in the final game of the season, Payton almost certainly would have won the NFL rushing title for the yearand he did lead the National Football Conference (NFC) in yards gained with a total of 1,390.

Breaks Single-Game Rushing Record

Payton's breakthrough year came in 1977. In the opening game of the Bears' season, Payton gained 160 yards, and six weeks later he posted the first 200-yard game in his pro career. Three weeks later, Payton broke O.J. Simpson 's single-game rushing record when he ran for 275 yards. Freezing rain during the Bears' final game of the season held down Payton's rushing yardage for the year to 1,852, just 151 yards short of Simpson's season rushing record of 2,003 yards.

As his performance on the football field grew steadily more impressive, armchair fans across the country became increasingly familiar with Payton's unique running style-running on his toes with short, stiff-legged strides. Payton also seemed to derive genuine pleasure from blocking for other running backs and protecting the Bears quarterback against blitzing linebackers. Interviewed by Esquire, legendary Bears running back Gale Sayers commented on this side of Payton's game: "That's what sets him head and shoulders above other running backs, the maximum effort he puts into other phases of the game." Payton also showed his appreciation to the offensive linemen who blocked for him by handing the football to one of them after he had scored a touchdown.

Negotiates Lucrative Contracts

Having proved his worth to the Bears, Payton in 1978 negotiated contracts that guaranteed him $400,000 for the 1978 season, $425,000 for 1979, and $450,000 plus incentive bonuses for 1980. However, despite the front office's high hopes, Payton's 50 pass receptions and 1,395 yards in rushing yardage were not enough to keep the Bears from another losing season. They ended the 1978 season with a 7-9 record. Payton and fullback Roland Harper, with 992 rushing yards, accounted for 72 percent of the Bears' offense in 1978.

Awards and Accomplishments

1974 Named Little All-American after setting nine school records at Jackson State College
1975 Tops 100 yards rushing for Chicago Bears for the first time
1976 Named Sporting News NFC Player of the Year and picked to play in Pro Bowl
1976-81 Rushes for 1,000 yards or more each season
1977 Sets single-game rushing record with 275 yards vs. Minnesota on November 20
1977 Named NFL Player of the Year and Sporting News NFC Player of the Year
1977 Named NFL Offensive Player of the Year
1978-81, 1984-87 Selected to play in Pro Bowl
1984 Breaks Jim Brown's NFL career rushing record
1985 Named NFL Player of the Year
1993 Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame

Lessons in Greatness

Payton was not the greatest running back in history, but he was close. Jimmy Brown and O.J. Simpson were better, but no one player in NFL history at any position has forced more from his body and driven himself as relentlessly as Payton. This is Payton's first lesson: Never settle for less than you can possibly be.

"I'm always fearful I'm not in the best shape I can be in," Payton once told me. "My goal is to be able to play all out 60 minutes every game. Since you might have the ball only 30 minutes, I figure I've got enough left to go all out every play."

Source: Attner, Paul Sporting News (November 15, 1999): 8.

Hampered by a painful pinched nerve in his shoulder through much of the 1979 season, Payton nevertheless managed to rush for 1,610 yards, the best in the NFC. With a 10-6 record, the Bears made it into the playoffs, but they were eliminated in the first round. With a season total of 1,460 yards, Payton snagged his fifth consecutive NFC rushing title in 1980, but it was not enough to keep the Bears from a dismal 7-9 record. The following year was even worse for the Bears, who finished the season with a record of 6-10. Slowed for much of the 1981 season by a sore shoulder and cracked ribs, Payton managed to rush for only 1,222 yards for the season, failing to win the NFC rushing title for the first time in several years.

Signed to 3-Year, $2 Million Contract

In advance of the 1982 season, Payton negotiated a three-year contract worth $2 million with the Bears. To beef up its chances, the Bears' owners brought in Mike Ditka as coach. But the season as marred by a players' strike, and the Bears finished the shortened season with a disappointing record of 3-6. In 1983 the Bears brought in Jim McMahon as quarterback. Thus strengthened, the team finished with an 8-8 record. Payton alone accounted for more than a third of the Bears' offense, running for 1,421 yards and catching 53 passes for 607 yards. Payton's performance in 1984 was electrifying. Early in the season, he broke Jim Brown's 19-year-old NFL career rushing record of 12,312 yards and ended the year with a season total of 1,684 yards. The Bears ended the regular season with a record of 10-6. In the first game of the playoffs, Chicago defeated the Washington Redskins by a score of 23-19 but fell to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game.

Payton's dream of making it to the Super Bowl finally came true in 1985. The Bears compiled a stunning record of 15-1 in the regular season and handily polished off its two playoff opponents in home games to power its way into Super Bowl XX. It was a storybook finish for the Bears as they demolished the New England Patriots, 46-10,

in the big game. The following year, the Bears finished the season with a blazing 14-2 record but stumbled in its first playoff game, losing to the Redskins, 27-13. In 1987, the season was once again marred by a player strike. However, the Bears performed strongly in the regular season, finishing with a record of 11-4 and making it into the playoffs again. Paired off against the Redskins, the Bears' post-season march was stopped in its tracks. Not long after the end of the season, Payton, now 33, decided it was time to call it quits and announced his retirement from pro football.

After his retirement, Payton focused most of his attention to the operations of Walter Payton Inc., his personal holding company with investments in restaurants, timber, and real estate. He managed, however, to find time to race cars and boats. In July 1993, Payton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In making the presentation to his father, Payton's son, Jarrett, said: "Not only is my dad an exceptional athlete, he's a role model; he's my biggest role model and best friend. We do a lot of things together. I'm sure my sister willendorse this statement: we have a super dad."

Related Biography: Football Player Mike Singletary

By Walter Payton's side in the final days of his life was longtime teammate and friend, Mike Singletary. The two spent the final weekend of Payton's life praying and reading scripture. After the death of his friend, Singletary told the Associated Press that even at the end, Payton refused to talk about dying. "He had dealt with that," said Singletary, "but he didn't want to talk about that. Walter was the kind of individual who refused to think, 'Why me, why now?' He just continued to look forward."

Born in Houston, Texas, on October 9, 1958, Singletary grew up the son of a strict Christian minister who preached against such sins as wearing shorts and playing sports. As a boy, Singletary was forbidden to play sports and barred from a number of other school and neighborhood activities as well. The year that Singletary entered junior high school, his minister father ran away with another woman, leaving the family in shock and confusion. Singletary took advantage of the ensuing confusion to join the school's football team and quickly made up for lost time. His spectacular performance on the defensive squad at Houston's Worthing High School caught the attention of scouts from Baylor University, and he was offered a scholarship.

A football sensation at Baylor, Singletary was named Southwest Conference Player of the Year in both 1979 and 1980. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 1981 NFL draft. In his 12 seasons as a linebacker for the Bears, Singletary won the affection and respect of his fellow players and coaches. He enjoyed probably his finest season in 1985-1986 when he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press and NFC Defensive Player of the Year by United Press International. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998. Singletary lives with his wife Kim and three children outside Chicago.

In February 1999 Payton called a press conference to reveal that he was suffering from a rare liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) that causes the bile ducts to close, backing up bile, and permanently damaging the liver. Only three months later, he learned that he had developed bile duct cancer as a result of the PSC. On November 1, 1999, surrounded by his family and close friends, he died at his home in South Barrington, Illinois.

Records are made to be broken, and so it was with Payton's career rushing record. In late October 2002, Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys amassed a total of 16,743 career yards to surpass Payton's 16,726. But Payton was so much more than just a rushing record. In the hearts of his fellow players, coaches, and football fans everywhere, he lives on as one of the game's greatest players. Former teammate Dan Hampton probably said it best: "No one on this football team and no one in the NFL is actually in Walter Payton's league."

SELECTED WRITINGS BY PAYTON:

(With Jerry B. Jenkins) Sweetness, NTC/Contemporary Publishing, 1978.

Career Statistics

Rushing Receiving
Yr Team GP Att Yds Y/A TD Rec Yds Y/R TD
CHI: Chicago Bears.
1975 CHI 13 196 679 3.5 7 33 213 6.5 0
1976 CHI 14 311 1390 4.5 13 15 149 9.9 0
1977 CHI 14 339 1852 5.5 14 27 269 10.0 2
1978 CHI 16 333 1395 4.2 11 50 480 9.6 0
1979 CHI 16 369 1610 4.4 14 31 313 10.1 2
1980 CHI 16 317 1460 4.6 6 46 367 8.0 1
1981 CHI 16 339 1222 3.6 6 41 379 9.2 2
1982 CHI 9 148 596 4.0 1 32 311 9.7 0
1983 CHI 16 314 1421 4.5 6 53 607 11.5 2
1984 CHI 16 381 1684 4.4 11 45 368 8.2 0
1985 CHI 16 324 1551 4.8 9 49 483 9.9 2
1986 CHI 16 321 1333 4.2 8 37 382 10.3 3
1987 CHI 12 146 533 3.7 4 33 217 6.6 1
TOTAL 190 3838 167 26 4.4 110 492 4538 9.2 15

(With Don Yaeger) Never Die Easy: The Autobiography of Walter Payton, Random House, 2001.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

"Mike Singletary." Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 4. Detroit: Gale Group, 1993.

"Walter Payton." Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 25. Detroit, MI: Gale Group, 2000.

"Walter Payton." Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Volume 20. Detroit, MI: Gale Group, 2000.

"Walter Payton." Newsmakers 2000, Issue 2. Detroit, MI: Gale Group, 2000.

"Walter Payton." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. five volumes. Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 2000.

Periodicals

Attner, Paul. "Lessons in Greatness." Sporting News (November 15, 1999): 8.

Pierson, Mark. "American Football: NFL Mourns Loss of Walter 'Sweetness' Payton." Independent (November 3, 1999): 27.

"Walter Payton." Washington Times (November 7, 1999): B2.

"Walter Payton Timeline." USA Today (November 2, 1999).

Other

"Remembering Walter Payton, 1954-1999." SportingNews.com. http://www.sportingnews.com/archives/payton (November 6, 2002).

"Walter Payton: Running Back." Football-Reference.com. http://www.football-reference.com/players/PaytWa00.htm (November 2, 2002).

Sketch by Don Amerman

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Singletary, Mike 1958–

Mike Singletary 1958

Former professional football player

At a Glance

Hard-Hitting Defensive Player

On to Chicago

Motivated by Higher Goals

Selected writings

Sources

Throughout the 1980s, the name Mike Singletary struck fear into the hearts of ball carriers in the National Football League. Singletary is widely regarded as one of the finest linebackers in the history of football, a certain Hall-of-Famer, and a likely contender for a prestigious professional coaching job now that his playing days have ended. During his 12-year careerall with the Chicago Bearshe helped the team to advance to the playoffs a half dozen times and was a decisive factor in a 1986 Bears Super Bowl victory. Houston Post correspondent Terry Blount described Singletary as the best middle linebacker in football, a superstar who was the heart of the Chicago Bears defense.

No one would have predicted that Michael Singletary would become an award-winning professional football player. The youngest of ten children of Rudell and Charles Singletary, he was born in 1958. He spent the better part of the first eight years of his life in bed with chronic infections. Chicago Tribune reporter Phil Hersh wrote: Sometimes, when [Mike] was a baby, Rudell Singletary would look at him and start crying, as if it were her fault that Mike was sickly. In the middle of the night, when bronchitis or pneumonia made him struggle to breathe, she would rush him to the hospital for a shot. He didnt eat much, and he didnt have the strength to play outdoors more than a few minutes at a time. For the first eight years of his life, until he was no longer plagued by earaches and head colds, Mikes companions were his mother, her Bible and his imagination.

To make matters worse, Singletarys father was a strict Christian minister who opened his own church and preached against such sins as playing sports and wearing shorts. Mike was not allowed to participate in school sports and was barred from many other activities as well. Somehow he absorbed the positive aspects of the Christian faith without retaining a great deal of respect for his strict parent. My father didnt know about empathy or compassion or compromising, Singletary told the Chicago Tribune. He took things away and didnt put anything back. There was discipline, but no love. When Singletary was starting junior high school, his father ran away with another woman. Many members of the large family were devastated by the sudden separation and divorce. For his part, Mike used the ensuing confusion to enroll in his schools football program. By the time anyone thought to chastise him for playing sports, he was tearing up the field.

At a Glance

Born Michael Singletary, October 9, 1958, in Houston, TX; son of Charles (a minister and laborer) and Rudell Singletary; married in 1984; wifes name Kim; children: Kristen, Jill, Matthew. Education: Baylor University, B.A., 1983.

Professional football player for Chicago Bears, 1981-92. Drafted by the Bears in second round of 1981 National Football League draft; middle linebacker for the team, 1981-92.

Awards: Earned numerous collegiate and professional awards, including All-American at linebacker for Baylor, 1979 and 1980; named Southwest Conference Player of the Year, 1979 and 1980; named to All-Southwest Conference Team of the 1970s and 1980s; selected to Pro Bowl every year between 1983 and 1990; winner of 1990 NFL Man of the Year award; named to NFL Team of the 1980s by Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors.

Addresses: c/o The Chicago Bears, Hallas Hall, 250 N. Washington Rd., Lake Forest, IL 60045.

Other tragedies diverted the familys attention at the same time. After Singletarys father left, an older brother, Grady, stepped in as surrogate father to young Mike. Hersh wrote: At 23, Grady was moving into a faster lane, one where the traffic included alcohol and drugs, but he was still able to preach effectively what he might not be practicing. One night only months after the divorce, Grady Singletary was killed in a six-car accident begun by a drunken driver. Another Singletary brother, Dale, had died some time before that from inhaling fumes from coal stored in his bedroom. A feeling of hopelessness settled upon the family, but Mike Singletary was determined not to be daunted by it. As the youngest, I had the chance to see the mistakes and the misfortunes, Singletary told the Chicago Tribune. I feel I was the least talented of all 10, and I dont think Im the smartest. The others allowed themselves to fall into the trap of Woe is me, the world owes me something. It wasnt just us. There were others suffering.

Hard-Hitting Defensive Player

When Singletary became involved in sports, he made up for the time lost to ill health. His performance on the defensive squad for Worthing High School in Houston won him a scholarship to Baylor University, a Christian college. There, in just a few short seasons, he made himself known all over the country. Mike Singletary played so hard at Baylor he risked passing out from hyperventilation, noted Hersh. His ferocious, head-first tackling style broke 16 of his helmets but never hurt him. Singletary averaged more than fifteen tackles per game for Baylor and was named Southwest Conference player of the year in both 1979 and 1980. His play was so stunning that he was named to the All-Southwest Conference Team of the 1970s and 1980s, because his time at Baylor spanned both decades.

Up until this day, I dont know why the helmets [broke], Singletary told the Chicago Tribune. All I knew was I had a gift to hit. That gift was not lost on the professional scouts. Ironically, some scouts had reservations about the young linebacker, because at barely six feet tall he was considered too small for the NFL. Chicago Bears scout Jim Parmer went to Texas to watch Singletary play and concluded that size would not be a factor. Parmer told the Chicago Tribune: [Mikes] attitude was so different than 99 out of 100 college kids I see. He was dead serious, very businesslike. He looked right at me and said, Mr. Parmer, if you draft me, Im going to be the best linebacker in the National Football League. Thats a big statement.

On to Chicago

The Bears decided to take a chance in 1981. They passed Singletary over in the first roundto his dismaybut traded up so that they could pick him in the second. Singletary roared into training camp in the summer of 1981 determined to show himself better than his second-round slot. He quickly became a starter at the middle linebacker position, and by seasons end early in 1982 had been given all-rookie honors by such observers as United Press International and Football Digest. By 1983when he earned his first Pro Bowl selectionSingletary had established himself as one of the finest defensive talents in the NFL. The Chicago critics compared him to Hall-of-Famer Dick Butkus, who played essentially the same position. Nevertheless, as Hersh pointed out, Butkus played in an era when the ability to stop the run was paramount for middle linebackers; Singletary [played] in an era when speed... changed the game, forcing a middle linebacker to be as agile as he is hostile.

Coacheseven crusty ones like Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryanloved Singletary. The highly dedicated linebacker was always willing to study hard in order to prepare for each contest. Serious and intent at practice, he drove himself through a punishing off-season workout program so that he would arrive at training camp ready to play.

Hersh wrote: To Singletary, perfection is attainable but only through ceaseless effort. When he wants something, he works at a way to get it. He knew greatness would be denied a linebacker who was removed when passing situations called for a nickel defense, with an extra defensive back. So he lost 20 pounds, thereby gaining speed to cover tight ends and running backs, and he begged former defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan to let him play every down.... He often has memorized the teams weekly game plan before the rest of the players begin reading it.... Knowledge is power, the power to be in control.

It is no coincidence that Singletary had one of his best seasons in 1985-86. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press and NFC Defensive Player of the Year by United Press International. More importantly, he was the anchor in a blistering defense that helped the Bears to advance to Super Bowl XX and take an almost embarrassing 46-10 victory over the New England Patriots. All told, Singletary participated in six post-season playoff bids, enough to keep the Bears prominent among the NFLs finest teams. As late as 1990 he led the Bears in tackles for the year with 151 and started in every single game. He also won the 1990 NFL Man of the Year award. Philadelphia Daily News correspondent Paul Domowitch called Singletary the straw that stirs the drink for the Chicago Bears defense.

At the age of 34, Singletary, an elder statesman in the savage world of professional football, decided that the 1992 season would be his last, retiring while still at the top of his game. The passing of most players from the game goes virtually unnoticed in professional sports; at best a terse press release from team officials that gets buried below the fold in the back pages of the local sports section. But in an emotional pregame ceremony at Chicagos Soldier Field on December 13, 1992the final Bears home game of the seasonthe Chicago fans saluted Singletary in a stirring goodbye as the Bears retired the number 50 he wore on his jersey (signifying that out of respect for his accomplishments both on and off the field, no Chicago player will ever again wear that number). After twelve seasons (during which he only missed two gamesboth in 1986), Singletarys days as the roaring Samurai and bone-crushing tackler were over.

Motivated by Higher Goals

Some NFL players work simply for the money and the fame. Loved by fans for his gentlemanly manner as much as for his athletic ability, Singletary always felt he had a higher reason for being at the top of his game. A born-again Christian, he hopes to reach troubled youngsters through his example and with his message of hard work and clean living. According to J. K. Thompson in the Houston Post, Singletary comes across as an earnest Christian... driven to excel and influence others to do the same as he strives for righteousness. He takes his American Hero role model status seriously. Singletary himself put it a little more modestly in the Houston Post: My desire [was] to be the best in football.... I believe God gave each and every one of us talent. I dont want to cheat Him, and I dont want to cheat myself or my family.

Conservative is a word that fits Mike Singletary perfectly. With a management degree from Baylor, he has banked his salary carefully. His drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle have made him a favorite for product endorsements, especially in the Chicago area, and he donates time and money to such causes as hemophilia research, youth projects in Chicago and Houston, and substance abuse treatment programs. A lot of people think Im corny, Singletary told the Chicago Tribune. I want it that way, and I like it that way. You watch me as close as you can, and Ill do my best to teach you something. You follow me anywhere, into any closet, and you wont see something else.

Mike Singletary lives outside of Chicago with his wife Kimwhom he met while they were students at Baylorand their three children. The couple had a long courtship because Kim Singletary is white, and her parents in particular were concerned about the social implications of their union. We would go for a walk almost every night, Mrs. Singletary told the Chicago Tribune of her days at Baylor. Finally, I realized, the more I thought about a husband, that Mike had every quality I wanted and I thought, Maybe Im in love with him. It was kind of scary. But we stayed together. The family shares their deep Christian faith, and Mrs. Singletary leads many charity drives and fundraisers.

A future in coaching is likely for Mike Singletary, as is induction into the Football Hall of Fame. His devotion to the mechanics of football and the strategy of each contest has not gone unnoticed. Before his retirement, he had already begun attending the Bears defensive coordinators regular strategy sessions on Mondays and Tuesdays following each game, and he has a special video system at home with which he can analyze football plays in minute detail.

Selected writings

(With Armen Keteyian) Calling the Shots (autobiography), Contemporary Books, 1986.

Sources

Books

Singletary, Mike and Armen Keteyian, Calling the Shots, Contemporary Books, 1986.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, September 7, 1986; November 9, 1986

Detroit News, December 14, 1992.

Houston Post, October 12, 1986; December 17, 1989; December 2, 1990.

Philadelphia Daily News, July 30, 1991.

Sports Illustrated, December 24, 1990.

Mark Kram

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Kram, Mark. "Singletary, Mike 1958–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1993. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Kram, Mark. "Singletary, Mike 1958–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1993. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870600065.html

Kram, Mark. "Singletary, Mike 1958–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1993. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870600065.html

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