By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8
This week, the nominees from each NFL team were announced for one of my favorite professional sports awards, the Walter Payton Man of the Year. This award recognizes players for their volunteer and charity work, not just their play on the field. These are men of character who give back to the communities that support their NFL careers.
It was originally called the NFL Man of the Year, but in 1999, after the death of Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, who won the award in 1977, it was renamed to honor his legacy as a humanitarian. There are currently six active layers who have won the award — Drew Brees, Jason Witten, Thomas Davis, Larry Fitzgerald, Eli Manning and J.J. Watt.
Let’s take a look at the men who will be representing the NFC South teams as this year’s finalists…
Ricardo Allen (Purdue), has been a leader both on and off the field. He is a part of the Falcons’ Social Justice Committee, which addresses social justice issues in Atlanta. Allen and other teammates visited West Point Military Academy and participated in military-based leadership training. Allen was selected to be one of the Falcons’ four permanent team captains for the 2019 season.
The only Falcons player to win the award was Warrick Dunn in 2004.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) December 12, 2019
From youth football programs to educational grants, Newton’s foundation has done a great deal of good since its inception in 2012. The CNF is committed to enhancing the lives of youth by addressing their educational, physical and social needs. While Newton’s on-the-field play gets a great deal of attention, his work through this foundation is amazing. Along with members of his family and over 85 volunteers, Newton hosted the 8th annual “Cam’s Thanksgiving Jam” on Nov. 25, 2019, feeding over 1,300 kids and their families in the Charlotte area.
Linebacker Thomas Davis won the award for the Panthers in 2014.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) December 12, 2019
When it comes to #WPMOY Award nominees for the Saints, Armstead is in very good company. Previous Saints nominees include Drew Brees, Cameron Jordan, and Benjamin Watson! While battling an ankle injury, the big man has still done his job and protected his quarterback who just set the touchdown record on Monday night!
Armstead has been a leader in charitable efforts in the New Orleans community. He participates in youth football camps run by his teammates in the offseason and does whatever he can to help support their community outreach programs. He uses his weekly day off to visit local schools and children’s hospitals. He even gifted a dozen bicycles to kids at the DePaul Community Center. His presence and commitment in the neighborhoods of New Orleans is felt by all.
I’m truly honored to receive this nomination ??! This is so much bigger than myself, and so much bigger than a game! To be able to inspire, encourage, and help people has been the highlights of my career! Thank you to everyone that has ever supported me?#WhoDat ⚜️ https://t.co/9o1Bt3wYaU
— Terron Armstead (@T_Armstead72) December 12, 2019
This December, Evans celebrated the two-year anniversary of the Mike Evans Family Foundation, a foundation he created with a goal to support educational development and assist students from low-income families. The foundation also supports women and families affected by domestic violence.
Every holiday season, the Mike Evans Family Foundation hosts ‘Catch for Christmas’, a three-day event dedicated to fans and recognizing scholar students from low-income families. This past Sunday, Evans gave tickets to 24 children from the Boys and Girls club of Tampa Bay to attend the Buccaneers game against the Colts. On Monday, he hosted a celebrity bowling fundraiser, and less than 12 hours later he surprised 13 kids with breakfast, a tour of the practice facility and gifts from their wish list.
In 2000, Pro Football Hall of Famer and Buccaneer Derrick Brooks shared the award.
Shoutout to my guy @MikeEvans13_ who understands the importance of giving back. He continues to show his compassion off the field with his many charitable contributions to our community. Congrats for @NFL Walter Payton Man of Year nomination! Get well soon! #WPMOY @Nationwide #ad pic.twitter.com/wGioAjrzN6
— Jameis Winston (@Jaboowins) December 16, 2019
Talk NFL with Kate on Twitter / @ClvlndK8