BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Lionel Antoine got a chance to block for one of the NFL's all-time great running backs Walter Payton, a fellow-Mississippian.
Lionel says it was a special honor to open the running lanes for "Sweetness" who was a standout at Jackson State. The Chicago Bears selected Patyon with the 4th overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft.
He said, "We really started jelling Walter's second year. Walter's first year was 1975. I had been in the league for three years. I welcomed a great running back as Walter. Walter was a hard worker. Walter's second year he gained his first thousand yards."
Antoine says the team was going to present Payton with the game ball after he gained a thousand yards for the season.
"Everybody cheered, "stated Antoine. "Walter quieted everybody down and he said that he didn't deserve the game ball. He said I've been running behind Antoine all-year and I'm going to give Antoine the game ball."
Antoine says this picture was selected as one of the greatest in NFL history. Lionel was the left offensive tackle, No. 79.
"Joe Namath put a book out called the Greatest NFL photographs of the Century and they got a picture of me and the whole offensive line block for Walter Payton, "said Antoine. "At the time, this was 1976, I had the original 8-by-10 picture but Katrina destroyed it. We called this shot, the Ring Around Walter."
Antoine played two more years with the Bears before a nagging knee injury ended his career after the 1978 season. He says athletes who sign big-time pro contracts shouldn't blow all their money.
"The more money you make the more you're going to spend. "stated Antoine. "If a guy makes a million dollars a year, he's not going to buy a Volkswagen. He's going to guy a big car, $100,000 car, but you don't need those things. Live moderately because your career is not going to last forever. And life changes. You're not going to be able to live at that standard once you retire. So, I advice them to put some money away. "
Antoine says the St. Louis Cardinals wanted to draft him after his senior season at Nichols High School. He was a catcher and says LSU offered him a basketball scholarship..but turned down both offers to play football.