The Chicago Bears announced Wednesday that they will unveil statues of Pro Football Hall of Famers Walter Payton and George S. Halas outside Soldier Field on Sept. 3.
The unveiling of the 12-foot, 3,000-pound bronze statues will take place two days before the team opens the 2019 season in a Thursday night game against the Green Bay Packers.
“It is only appropriate that the father of professional football and the greatest player in the history of the game are being honored in this way, and perhaps no better time for the unveiling than as we kick off our centennial season,” Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said in a statement.
Connie Payton, wife of the Bears great, said her late husband “would be humbled to have this honor bestowed upon him.”
“To say that I am enthusiastic about unveiling this statue to the city of Chicago is an understatement. What a proud moment for all of us and the city of Chicago. We’re not just Chicago Bears fans, we’re family,” she said in the statement.
Payton’s son, Jarrett, also tweeted about the statue:
On Sept. 3rd, our family alongside the @ChicagoBears will be unveiling a statue of my father and George Halas outside of Gate 0 at Soldier Field. I’ve seen one one of @walterpayton and let me tell you….amazing!!! #Bears pic.twitter.com/73CPGtQQbF
— Jarrett Payton (@paytonsun) August 7, 2019
Payton died in 1999 at the age of 45 from bile duct cancer. At the time he was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, finishing with 16,726 yards when he retired in 1989 after 13 NFL seasons. He is the Bears’ all-time leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns (110). The two-time NFL MVP’s No. 34 jersey is retired by the Bears.
Halas was the franchise’s founder (as the Decatur Staleys in 1920) and coached the team for 40 years. He won six championships with the Bears and is the franchise’s all-time leader in victories with 318. He also played nine seasons for the team and was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-1920s team. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963. His No. 7 jersey also has been retired by the team.
The Bears previously erected a statue of Halas outside their training facility in 2015.