Eddie Payton accepts the NFHS Hall Of Fame medal from MHSAA Executive Director Rickey Neaves. Photo by Keith Warren

Walter Payton inducted into NFHS Hall Of Fame

Eddie Payton accepts the NFHS Hall Of Fame medal from MHSAA Executive Director Rickey Neaves. Photo by Keith Warren


Former Columbia High School running back Walter Payton was inducted into the National Federation of High Schools Hall Of Fame Friday night in San Antonio, Texas. Accepting the award was Eddie Payton, Walter’s brother.

Eddie Payton answers a question at the NFHS Hall Of Fame press conference. Photo by Keith Warren

After his high school career, Payton played for Jackson State University and had a record-setting career with the Chicago Bears in the NFL.

Payton was one of 12 individuals inducted into the 39th class of the National High School Hall of Fame. The four athletes are joined by three highly successful high school coaches, three former state association administrators, one contest official, and one speech and debate coach in the performing arts area.

In addition to Payton, inductees include Notah Begay of New Mexico, Sanya Richards-Ross of Florida, Thurman Thomas of Texas, the late Ray Crowe of Indiana, Ron Kordes of Kentucky, Lamar Rogers of Tennessee, the late E. Wayne Cooley of Iowa, Becky Oakes of Missouri, John E. (Jack) Roberts of Michigan; as well as officials Jeff Risk of North Dakota, and Susan McLain of Oregon.

Begay wasa three-sport standout at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico before his golf accomplishments at Stanford and on the PGA Tour. Richards-Ross won 10 individual titles and four state championships at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, before her Olympic exploits. Thomas was one of the top running backs in Texas high school history at Willowridge High School in Houston before his days at Oklahoma State University and with the Buffalo Bills.

As a coach at Louisville Assumption High School, Kordes won 22 Kentucky state girls volleyball championships in 33 years. Rogers won almost 1,300 girls basketball games in 46 years at Clarkrange High School in Tennessee and is third on the all-time victories list nationally. Crowe, who was represented by his daughter, Linda Knight, coached Indianapolis Crispus Attucks High School to the Indiana state title in 1955 to become the first All-Black school to win a state title.

Risk, who is the one official to be inducted this year, is a three-sport official from North Dakota whose 40-plus years of experience features more than 5,000 games officiated.

Two of the three administrators in attendance at this year’s ceremony include Oakes and Roberts. Oakes is the former executive director of the Missouri State High School Activities Association and director of sports with the NFHS. Roberts was one of the key leaders nationally during his 32 years as executive director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Cooley, who passed away in 2013, was the longtime executive director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and was represented by his daughter, Denise Brode.

McLain, the performing arts recipient in this year’s class, was an active speech and debate educator in Oregon for 42 years before her retirement in 2014 to join the Oregon House of Representatives.

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