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Never Die Easy: The Autobiography of Walter Payton Paperback – September 11, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375758216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375758218
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Walter Payton's premature passing forced a rethinking of his autobiography that completely sidesteps the self-importance that dominates sports memoirs in general. Never Die Easy isn't a traditional autobiography at all. It's an oral history disguised as autobiography that relates the saga of the most exquisite running back in NFL history through an interweaving of Payton's words and the words of those who knew him, with necessary transitions and narrative bridged by his collaborator. The result is an appealing hybrid that mirrors Payton's quiet modesty. "He had not just been a great football player," writes Yaeger, "he had been a role model in an age when role models were in short supply."

The Payton that emerges is a man of great skill, decency, passion, and charity: a man beloved. Naturally, there's lots of football in Never Die Easy--the title comes from a saying of Payton's college coach--with eyewitness testimony provided by the likes of Mike Ditka, Mike Singletary, Jim McMahon, Franco Harris, Matt Suhey, and even Jim Brown, whose career rushing record Payton leaped over. But there is also lots of family: the voices of his wife, children, brother, and sister are heard.

But mostly, there is Walter Payton. It's his own unmistakably high-pitched voice that resonates throughout; he sets down the melody and the others harmonize. Payton was certainly astute about the game and his abilities, forthcoming both in triumph and failure--his unsuccessful attempt at winning the NFL franchise in St. Louis was a terrible post-career blow--and utterly decent. How many other superstar athletes could say, convincingly, "Too many of us only take. We don't give." Payton gave to the end--a man who died for want of an organ was willing and eager to donate his own. It was the ultimate testimony of his refined, unforgettable Sweetness. Never Die Easy offers a fair, honest, appreciative taste. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

It's a testament to Payton's greatness as a man that nearly half his autobiography can be devoted to what he achieved after his career. "Sweetness" may hold the NFL's career rushing record, and he may have been one of the toughest, hardest-working players ever, but he was also devoted to keeping spirits high around him, even when facing the end of his own life, and committed to helping needy children. He was so important to others that many immediately took up the latter task when he was dyingAand tens of thousands more sent him their prayers and sympathy. (Payton died of liver cancer in November 1999.) With a protagonist like this, Payton's book isn't your standard sports bio. Nor is it traditional in structure. Because Payton died before his autobiography was completed, his interviews have been supplemented by the stories and thoughts of family and friends, with sports biographer Yaeger providing the connective tissue. More an oral history than an autobiography, the book sometimes suffers for it. Payton's career is dealt with summarily; frequently, stories are repeated, if from different perspectives, and Payton's many remarkable qualities are each noted many times over. The five eulogies from his funeral all elaborate on the same points: his skills and his humility. Payton had an abundance of each. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

To say that the story is inspiring is like saying the sun is a pretty good light.
A. Wolverton
All young athletes should read this book to understand that a person can be a great athlete and still be a humble person.
J Mott
Walter Payton was an amazing man and his story makes all of us feel capable of being a great.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By David W. Coleman on November 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you think this is just the typical sports biography containing the typical boasts about on-the-field exploits and off-the-field hi-jinx, remember the subject is Walter Payton, and think again. This book is not even a sports biography. It's a life story, and by that I mean, a story about life. To linger or dwell on what Walter did on the gridiron would be to minimize and trivialize what he accomplished in life, and I say this realizing that he was one of the two greatest football players ever. The book is an easy, informative, and interesting read. You learn about his life in football, but the book is not a study in X's and O's. Instead you learn of Walter's work ethic, his compassion and empathy for others, his fun-loving ways, his sensitivity, his selflessness, his toughness, and his courage, to list only some. He operated a philanthropic foundation that reached out to millions in his lifetime. He anonymously distributed hundreds of thousands of toys at Christmastime. Even after he became gravely ill, he campaigned for greater awareness of the need for organ donors. And he raised two children who have become promising young adults, which he felt was his greatest accomplishment. Walter Payton inspired millions of his fans by giving his all on every play, and he lived his life off of the gridiron the way he did on it: he went all out and made the most of it. That the book was finished in an oral-history style, is fitting. It was never like Walter Payton to talk a lot about himself. Credit is due to his family members and friends, for being so open about their feelings about the man. The book has the ring of the absolute truth. It has been written: "Show me a hero, and I'll write you a tragedy." This book is anything but that. Like the man they called "Sweetness," Never Die Easy is an inspiration. The tragedy rests with our society, which lost this great hero of humanity at such a young age.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By John on October 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I consider Walter Payton to be one of my childhood heroes, primarily from his unparalleled feats on the football field and his "Never Die Easy" attitude as a Chicago Bear. This excellently written biography not only reaffirmed my childhood adolation, but added to my perspective of what a truly inspirational human being he was. His tireless efforts in charity, his down to earth charm and genuine love and respect for his fans, his legendary work ethic, his bold business ventures, and especially, his brave fight against the liver condition which claimed his life are all described brilliantly through his own observations as well as those closest to him. In short, this book convinced me that my childhood sports hero will always be an inspiration to me as an adult. I recommend this book and its powerful message to all readers, regardless of your familiarity with Mr. Payton. Thanks for giving so much, Walter, we'll miss you.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. Wolverton VINE VOICE on September 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
When I get depressed, when I complain about my life, and when I think people owe me something, I think of Walter Payton. Then I think of never giving up, always taking advantage of each day's opportunities, and being truly thankful for each breath I take. That was the Walter Payton way of living.
Most of the book is penned by Payton, but several parts are written by members of his family as well as friends and coaches, such as Matt Suey and Mike Ditka. Walter's entire life is represented here, from his early days in Columbia, Mississippi to the Chicago Bears to the illness that led to his death at such a young age. To say that the story is inspiring is like saying the sun is a pretty good light. This is one of the most inspiring books I have read in a long, long time. It will have an effect on all who read it. You don't have to be a football fan to appreciate and enjoy the book. Just a regular, ordinary person - that's the way Walter saw himself.
After you've finished the book, don't be surprised if you start looking at life differently. You might start thinking more positively. You might start spending more time on things that really matter: your family, your friends, helping other people. Like I said, don't be surprised.
Walter Payton was a class act in every way imaginable. If you don't believe it, look at most of the guys playing pro football today. How many of them are in it for the team and not for themselves? How many of them credit the people around them and not themselves? How many of them praise others' ability and not their own? How many of them can stay out of trouble and avoid scandal? Today's players could learn a lot from Walter Payton. So could regular people like you and me. Thank goodness God was pleased to send us Walter Payton. Read the book and you'll understand how special the man was and how he continues to bless lives after his death. A must-read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael Erisman on September 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The theme of this book could be that while it is important to "Never Die Easy" it is perhaps even more important to be humble about your success.

When Walter Payton died, I felt like I had lost a friend. I cried at the news, and at the same time felt odd about doing so. I never met Walter Payton. However, I followed his career, game by game for 13 years, and those years represented most of my young adult life. I always admired his tenacity, his sheer determination, and his unsurpassed skill on the football field. Every single play was a joy to watch. No one before or since played with that level of intensity on every down, every game. But what was even more impressive than that was his approach to life.

When Walter break the NFL all-time rushing record, he said "this is for all of those who tried and didn't make it". Even more amazing in this era of spoiled athletes was that Walter meant those words, and lived them. Greatness and humility are a rare combination in professional sports. What we see throughout this book, in his own words and those by others, is that in spite of all his records and his success, he got up every day and gave it his all.

The book itself covers his childhood in rural Mississippi through his professional career and to his early death due to liver cancer. The book is not written in the first person, which is disappointing, but understood in that it was written after he died. It is a series of paragraphs and reflections by different people who knew him, and by Walter himself.

I recommend buying and reading this book. You will see a person who was truly the best football player of all-time, and at the same time was everything you would want a man to be - a caring father, loving husband since he was 20, a humble teammate and some one who never, ever quit and had a work ethic most can only dream of. A look at some great life lessons and awesome principles to live by. I am still inspired by his approach.
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