Sometimes when I look back at my life, it is surreal even for me to think about it.
The Chicago Bears were coming to town to play the Minnesota Vikings, and my mom made a small $5 bet with me that I could not get Walter Payton on the phone. My mom liked to lovingly tease me and make bets with me, that I could not do something or bet me a dollar that my favorite team, the Redskins would lose.
Even at 13, I knew nothing was impossible so I took the bet.
I called the Vikings office and asked them where the Bears were staying when they came to town. The receptionist told me they were staying at the Marriott City Center in Minneapolis.
I looked up that hotel in the Yellow Pages and on the Saturday before the game, I dialed the phone number.
“Good afternoon, Marriott City Center, how may I direct your call?”
“Walter Payton’s room please,” I said. The woman responded, “One moment please,” and the phone began ringing.
By this time my heart was in my throat and my parents stood by the phone listening.
A man answered and said, “Hello?”
I said, “Is this Walter Payton?”
He responded, “No, hold on for a minute.”
Another man’s voice with more of a high-pitched tone said, “Hello?”
I could immediately tell it was him by his voice. I had heard him talk before. He had this unique sounding voice. By this time my heart was pounding in my chest. That is when it really hit me, that I was on the phone with the leading rusher in NFL history.
I felt nervous and said in this nervous sounding 13-year-old boy’s voice, “Hi, is this Walter Payton?”
“It is,” the man said.
“Hi, my name is Dan Kelly and I just want you to know that I’ve always been your hero.”
Payton responded after pausing for a moment, “You have?”
My parents started laughing and that is when I realized I said it backwards. I said it wrong!
I said to Payton, “Yeah, have a good game, thank you,” and I hung up.
My parents laughed and l laughed some too. I could not believe I messed it up and said it wrong. I felt sort of embarrassed, but proud of myself at the same time. I just had gotten off the phone with Walter Payton.
I also won the five bucks from my mom.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.