Walter Payton College Preparatory High School held a Chicago Ideas Week event on Tuesday evening.
In attendance and speaking at this motivational seminar, hosted by 10-time NFL pro-bowler Ronnie Lott, were Bears’ defensive end Israel Idonije, former Bear line-backer Hunter Hillenmeyer, and Jarrett Payton — son of the late, great Walter Payton.
Ronnie Lott began the festivities by talking about the meaning of the gathering. This sports-based conversation was inspired by the idea of having a coach and mentor for young people in all walks of life. Lott went on to describe how being inclusive and creating a network of ideas can connect a city.
Lott then introduced Indonije, Hillenmeyer and Payton to the high school auditorium to show how they became the individuals that they are today.
Indonije explained that great coaches do not have a blanket approach with their players and that bringing the best out of each individual, dealing with all sorts of personalities, is the key to success.
“There is a contagion to ideas,” said retired Bear Hunter Hillenmeyer.
He talked about how some coaches are strict disciplinarians while others “want to be your buddy.”
“If everybody loves you then you are probably not doing your job right,” Hillenmeyer explained. “Vince Lombardi’s ‘my way or the highway mentality’ is hard to come by.”
Hunter went to quote Bill Clinton from a speech earlier in the morning: “People are at their best when they are doing what they are passionate about.”
Jarrett Payton also had some inspired words to say at the high school named after his late father, Walter Payton.
Jarrett explained that coaching is not just about sports but about life; everything that he learns from sports is taken and applied to life.
Indonije and Hillenmeyer echoed Payton’s statements and expanded upon the concept.
“All the things we do in sports correlates to real life,” said Idonije.
He refered to character traits such as having hunger, a plan of attack, and going from goal-to-goal.
Hillenmeyer, who was forced to retire last season with a career-ending injury, knew that life would not end with his pro. athletic career. He explained, “what gets me out of bed is figuring out what that next passion is.”
Jarrett Payton talked a lot about the influence his father had on his life and credited him for the person that he is today.
“I wake up every morning wanting to be better than the day before,” said Payton. “[My father] was the strongest person I ever knew.”
Jarrett shared a couple of touching stories about his father — choking up many in the auditorium and garnering applause at the end.
He spoke the words he told his father as he sat by his deathbed:
“I will do whatever you were not able to do.”
Carrying the torch of Walter Payton’s goodness and sweetness burns in the heart of his son, Jarrett.
Jarrett Payton spoke of the time his father had a Schaumburg toy store closed for a half hour so he could pick out toys for he and his sister. But, instead of taking them home, Water Payton had his son help him deliver them to two families who were not able to have Christmas presents.
It was that day Jarrett said he realized that he wanted to be apart of a foundation.
When his father found out that he would be unable to donate organs, because of his ultimately life-ending condition, he told others to give back via organ transplants.
Illinois now leads all fifty states in organ transplants.
Jarrett also took time to announce that he and his wife are soon-to-be expecting their first child. He and his wife want to continue the family legacy by sharing these wonderful stories with their new child about their grandfather.
NBA player Shane Battier, founder of Digital Royalty Amy Jo Martin, and Northwestern-graduate/Pulitzer Prize-winning author also spoke Tuesday evening.