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The Walter Payton Man of The Year Award

NFL Field by Erin Costa is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Walter Payton Man of The Year Award

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

The Walter Payton Man of The Year Award is one of the highest individual honors a professional football player can receive. Furthermore, the award has very little to do with stats or superstar moments and more to do with a player’s incredible strength of character. Yes, the award does go to a player who exhibits excellence on the field but it also goes to the immeasurable service they give off the field. This is an award that is given to a player who exhibits excellence outside of the football stadium in the areas of volunteer and charity work. Consequently, The Walter Payton Man of The Year Award is given to a real man who gives back.

Last year’s co-winners, Eli Manning (Left) and Larry Fitzgerald (Right)

Now, it is my personal belief that one of the most important things a person can do is give back to other people. I believe that there is a reason that gratitude and service are words that are championed by every spiritual leader from Gandhi to Tony Robbins. Or that Charity is a part of Christianity, Tsedakah a part of Judaism, and Zaqat is one of the five pillars of Islam. This is because helping the world grow helps yourself. Raising your community lifts you up. Now I don’t care if you are a devout believer in religion or a staunch atheist because the logic is sound either way. No one gets anywhere in this world on their own and the best of us help other people get to where they are going. That said, enough of my personal beliefs and on to the finalists.

The complete list of Walter Payton Man of The Year Finalists appears at the end of this article. It is a list of all 32 nominees from all 32 teams. It is a list of some of the best men in the NFL and I would be honored to highlight three of the standouts for you here

#1, J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt of The Houston Texans

After Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas last August, J.J. Watt set up the Houston Flood Relief Fund through . His initial goal was to raise $200,000 and he ended up raising $37+ MILLION DOLLARS…

His efforts ring a bell across the league and usher in a giving process. I know there are opinions out there about athletes sticking to sports but when it comes to raising funds for communities that need it, I hope we continue to listen.

A message from JJ…

“There are not enough words to thank you all for your generosity. If there is one thing that I have taken away from these last few weeks, it is the reassurance of how much good is out there in our world.  When times are the toughest, humanity stands at its strongest and you have all helped to prove that emphatically.

On Friday, Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. CT, we will complete the fundraising portion of our efforts to dedicate our time to ensuring every dollar is put to work for the people in the devastated areas in and around Houston. There are many places you could have donated your hard-earned money and I’m honored you have chosen to join this effort to support the people who were affected most by Hurricane Harvey. Please keep this spirit of helping one another alive. The world is a better place when we all take care of each other.”


J.J. Watt

#2 Kenny Stills

Kenny Stills of the Miami Dolphins

In the 2016 season Kenny Stills knelt during the National Anthem in protest. In 2017 he no longer knelt. When asked about why, he said this “I felt people were being distracted by the kneeling and not seeing the work that we were doing, and that’s what it’s all about,” And the work he was doing? Kenny stills was organizing town hall meetings to figure out a way to combat racial inequality. He wanted to form a bond between law enforcement and the children of Miami. When he left the town hall

Kenny Stills with two members of the North Miami local police department.

meetings he came up with the idea of doing police ride alongs where he would join police in an effort to hang out with local kids after school.

“Just to help the law enforcement to build a relationship with the kids in those communities and build some type of trust and some familiarity with each other,” Stills says. “We can stop some negative things from happening by building these bonds.”

#3 Nate Solder

Nate Solder looking dreamy af.

In 2014 Nate Solder was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Since then, he has been declared cancer free since he caught it early and got the right treatment and recovery program. Later that same year, his one year old son was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Nate and his wife Lexi were lucky to have caught these tumors early on as well and have been pursuing proper treatment for their son Hudson. Nate is now a regular speaker at hospitals and recovery centers in the Boston area. He shares their family’s story as his son has ongoing chemotherapy treatment. He visits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Boston Children’s Hospital and has attended the One Mission Kid’s Cancer Buzz Off.

Nate Solder with the Fresh Trucks volunteer group.

Along with his service to his community in the fight against cancer, Nate works for an organization dedicated to making Boston healthier, a group called Fresh Truck. Fresh truck is creating mobile markets that are driving into areas of the city that are food deserts. They do so by converting old busses and then driving them into areas where fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods are difficult to access.

And there you have it!

My top three picks for who I think will win the Walter Payton Man of The Year Award. However, I honestly wish they would give out 32 awards. I think when comparing one act of service to another, it is almost impossible to measure the impact of a person’s worth. I feel the same way about the idea of a ‘Best Actor’ nomination. Silly to get into this now but how are you going to compare art to art? Anyway, yes, I still want a best actor award and yes I think that’s silly and I understand the duality of that statement but we can have multiple opinions of the same thing.

So here’s my opinion on this award: JJ Watt is going to win the award. In conclusion, I think the NFL has a serious PR problem (See Ben Salis’ take on that by reading his article ARE WE NOT ENTERTAINED?) and they’re not dumb. They’re going give it to the guy who made headlines this year for helping out his city. They’re probably not going give it to Kenny Still because he knelt in protest of the National Anthem last year. Heck, Colin Kaepernick still isn’t on a team and he’s better than half the quarterbacks in the NFL. Anyway, that’s my two cents. Now as promised, here are the finalists for The NFL’s Walter Payton Man of The Year Award. May we strive to be as good as these men outside of our profession.


Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson
Atlanta Falcons: Ben Garland
Baltimore Ravens: Benjamin Watson
Buffalo Bills: Lorenzo Alexander
Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen
Chicago Bears: Sam Acho
Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Johnson
Cleveland Browns: Randall Telfer
Dallas Cowboys: Travis Frederick
Denver Broncos: Chris Harris Jr.
Detroit Lions: Haloti Ngata
Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews
Houston Texans: J.J. Watt
Indianapolis Colts: Darius Butler
Jacksonville Jaguars: Malik Jackson
Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith
Los Angeles Chargers: Casey Hayward
Los Angeles Rams: Rodger Saffold
Miami Dolphins: Kenny Stills
Minnesota Vikings: Kyle Rudolph
The New England Patriots: Nate Solder
New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan
The New York Giants: Mark Herzlich
New York Jets: Quincy Enunwa
Oakland Raiders: Bruce Irvin
Philadelphia Eagles: Malcolm Jenkins
Pittsburgh Steelers: Cameron Heyward
San Francisco 49ers: Bradley Pinion
Seattle Seahawks: Michael Bennett
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Clinton McDonald
Tennessee Titans: Wesley Woodyard
Washington Redskins: Nick Sundberg

Charlie Forray is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles. He's also totally a New England Patriots fan but he's wearing a Bronco's jersey in his headshot because orange looks really good on him. Charlie will mostly cover the NFL post season but will also be covering sports that feel emotionally similar to football...but are different...

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