The New Orleans Saints are marching on to the Superbowl. Leading the way to sports biggest stage is Head Coach Sean Payton. It was only four months ago that the Naperville Central alum returned to the local stage for the Redhawks football game against Neuqua Valley. As an honorary assistant coach he spoke to the team and walked the sidelines.
“It lets them know that here’s a guy that walked the halls, sat in the same locker room, had the same lockers and he had some dreams. He had some goals,” said Head Football Coach Mike Stine. “He was just like we are and now he’s coaching in the Superbowl.”
His path there started well before his most recent stop into town. Payton played baseball and football for the then Redskins. When preparing for games, the senior quarterback was way ahead of his time. He took game film home at night to study the next opponent.
“It just shows how much of a student of the game he was back then, and it shows how dedicated he was,” said Assistant Football Coach Dave Dillon.
It was at Memorial Stadium in 1982 that Payton led the Redskins to a 9-2 season, state quarterfinal appearance and set multiple passing records. He was always the first one to practice and last one to leave.
“When your best players are your hardest workers, or most invested, you have a chance to be great and that was Sean Payton,” said Baseball Coach Bill Seiple.
Payton was and is invested and great both on and off the field. He’s maintained his friendships over the years.
“The most profound thing about Sean is you can’t separate him from that class of athletes in 1982,” Seiple said.
Over the years, Payton has never wavered from that.
“He’s a very friendly outgoing person and he cares about his roots, there’s no if’s, and’s or but’s…and I know to this day he bleeds red and white,” Dillon said.
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