This trophy was given to Walter Payton's widow in 1999 when the National Football League renamed their Man of the Year Award in honor of Walter Payton after his death at age 45 from a rare liver disease. Payton received the award himself in 1977. The award has been given out every year since 1970. Since 1999 each new recipient has received the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Described by former NFL player and head coach Mike Ditka as the best football player I've ever seen, Walter Payton was born in Columbia, Mississippi, in 1954. He attended Jackson State University where he broke all rushing records. Selected by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 1975 NFL draft, Payton had an outstanding career and still holds or shares many rushing records. Nicknamed Sweetness for his playful personality, Payton gave 100 per cent to the game while exhibiting true sportsmanship on and off the field. Elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993, Payton died of a rare form of liver cancer in 1999.