Walter Payton and other SWAC legends honored with awards

Published: May. 20, 2023 at 10:56 PM CDT
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RIDGELAND, Miss. (WLBT) - Saturday night, the annual SWAC Alumni Association Awards and Roast was hosted at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Ridgeland. Several SWAC legends were given awards, including one of the most legendary SWAC athletes of all time - Walter Payton.

Payton, who played at Jackson State before a legendary NFL career with the Chicago Bears, is know for his athletic talent, but just as well known for his charity and community work during and after his career. The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award is given every year to an NFL player who is committed to philanthropy and community impact.

The lifetime achievement award was give to Payton posthumously, as he passed away in 1999, after suffering from a rare liver disease. His brother, Eddie Payton, accepted the award on his behalf.

“All of the accolades didn’t come close to the way the SWAC made him feel. So, him not being here is bittersweet,” said Eddie Payton, who also played football at JSU. “Walter didn’t make Jackson State, Jackson State helped make Walter, and myself also. So, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Jackson State for giving the Payton family an opportunity to show what they could do.”

In addition to Payton, two others received lifetime achievement awards: Dr. Tracy M. Cook, the Alcorn State University Vice President and former football player, and Harlan S. Robinson, Texas Southern University Marketing, Promotions, and Operations Manager.

“I never ran into anyone who was that determined, it was like hitting a piece of granite when I hit him. He didn’t budge, he smiled, tapped me on the helmet, and said, ‘good try, young man,’” said Roynell Young, who played cornerback for Alcorn State from 1976-1980.

Young, who also played in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles, was awarded the Dennis E. Thomas Distinguished Service Award. The Charles “Chuck” Prophet Wagon Master Award was given to Adeanah Pooler, the SWAC Associate Commissioner, and Senior Woman Administrator.

The Guest of Honor for the roast was former JSU and Florida A&M Athletic Director Dr. Walter Reed.

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