Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Provides Honor Without Controversy

If you don’t enjoy arguing about which arbitrary data points make someone a Most Valuable Player or one of the best at their position in the league, the NFL has an award for you. Created in 1969, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award recognizes a player’s success on and off the field.

Originally called the NFL Man of the Year Award before being renamed in 1999 following Payton’s death, this was devised to help honor someone who does well in the community. Instead of honoring a player just for his excellence on the gridiron, the award aims to honor the individual for a player’s involvement with their community and philanthropy.

In recent years, the selection of nominees has been more heavily promoted. Many players consider it a high honor to be selected by their respective teams. This is an opportunity to recognize the achievements of players who give back to the communities that support them on the field, according to current sports news.

 

The Trophy Has Humble Origins

 

When artist Daniel Bennett Schwartz created the trophy in 1969, he designed it to be a simple caricature of a caped player standing on the sideline. The idea behind the simple design was that any person on the roster, not just a star, could be recognized for their service to their fellow man. Every year, each of the 32 teams nominates a player for the award.

When the Man of the Year winner is chosen, a $250,000 donation is made to a charity of his choice. For the other 31 nominated players, their charities receive up to $50,000 each. The award was renamed in 1999 after 1977 winner and Chicago Bears great Walter Payton.

Payton died at age 46 in 1999, and the NFL wanted to honor Payton’s legacy. The Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs are tied for the most award winners with five each.

 

Mahomes Headlines This Year’s Class

 

 

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes doesn’t have much left to accomplish in the NFL. Mahomes is already a two-time Super Bowl champion and has also collected the Super Bowl MVP and the NFL MVP. If Mahomes is chosen out of the field, he would be the ninth player to win both the MVP and NFL Man of the Year Award.

Kurt Warner, LaDainian Tomlinson, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, John Elway, Joe Theismann, Ken Anderson, and Johnny Unitas also accomplished the feat. All of the nominated players, including Mahomes, will have a special helmet sticker for them to wear for the rest of the season.

Mahomes was nominated due to his work with his foundation, 15 and the Mahomies Foundation, which works to help children with a focus on health, wellness, and various communities that need resources. Mahomes’ foundation has given out more than $4 million in grants.

Mahomes has also donated $1.65 million in addition to $1,500 for every touchdown in the regular season to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He is also involved with Make-A-Wish and has been involved with the granting of wishes to 10 children who have life-threatening illnesses.

 

2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year Nominees

 

The table below shows which players were nominated by their respective NFL franchises for the 2023 award. There are still several former award winners who are still playing in the NFL. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott won the award last season. Denver quarterback Russell Wilson and Atlanta Falcons’ defensive end Calais Campbell have also won the award.

 

Team Nominee
Arizona Cardinals Jonathan Ledbetter
Atlanta Falcons Bradley Pinion
Baltimore Ravens Roquan Smith
Buffalo Bills Dion Dawkins
Carolina Panthers Bradley Bozeman
Chicago Bears Justin Jones
Cincinnati Bengals Ted Karras
Cleveland Browns Anthony Walker Jr.
Dallas Cowboys DeMarcus Lawrence
Denver Broncos Garett Bolles
Detroit Lions Frank Ragnow
Green Bay Packers De’Vondre Campbell
Houston Texans Christian Kirksey
Indianapolis Colts Zaire Franklin
Jacksonville Jaguars Dawuane Smoot
Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes
Las Vegas Raiders Maxx Crosby
Los Angeles Chargers Derwin James Jr.
Los Angeles Rams Cooper Kupp
Miami Dolphins Alec Ingold
Minnesota Vikings Harrison Phillips
New England Patriots Jonathan Jones
New Orleans Saints Tyrann Mathieu
New York Giants Saquon Barkley
New York Jets Solomon Thomas
Philadelphia Eagles Lane Johnson
Pittsburgh Steelers Cameron Heyward
San Francisco 49ers Arik Armstead
Seattle Seahawks Bobby Wagner
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Antoine Winfield Jr.
Tennessee Titans Jeffery Simmons
Washington Commanders Terry McLaurin

 

Player Who Wins Award Faces Tough Challenges

 

With the amount of different organizations that need aid, the player who wins the award can sometimes be pulled in different directions. What is most important to many players is ensuring the money goes to those impacted. However, some non-profits can be weighed down by heavy overheads or mismanagement.

While some of the award winners have run into trouble making sure the money gets where it needs to go, there have been many more successes for the program.

 

Watt Helps Out Houston

 

Few players have ever been as tapped into the needs of their community as retired Houston Texans great J.J. Watt. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey brought devastating destruction to the city. Many were left without homes, and others perished from not being able to escape. Watt beat the drum loudly to help raise the money for the people impacted.

Watt would end up helping raise $41 million for relief efforts. That money went toward the cleanup, repair, and rebuilding of over 600 homes, the distribution of 26 million meals, and the distribution of medicine to 10,000 people. 

 

Dunn Helped Families Reach Dream of Home Ownership

 

 

While best known for his time in Tampa Bay, running back Warrick Dunn won the Man of the Year award while playing for the Atlanta Falcons. Black sports news shows that Dunn started Homes for the Holidays in 1997. The program was set up to reward single-parent families for reaching first-time home ownership.

In addition, Dunn established the Warrick Dunn Charities, which wanted to help innovately improve people’s lives. Later in life, Dunn would continue to find ways to stretch out his philanthropy by teaming up with Athletes for Hope.

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