In a year impacted by a pandemic and social unrest, NFL players have spoken out and stepped up. On Thursday, the league revealed the 32 finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, and each of them has played a significant role away from the field.
“In early 2020 I looked myself in the mirror and asked myself if I was doing enough, and that answer was no," said Dolphins defensive back Byron Jones.
"I made a commitment to be a part of positive change instead of being on the sideline and waiting for someone else to do it. Everyone knows what to do, but everyone kind of expects someone else to do it. I’m taking the responsibility and holding myself accountable. I’ve been blessed my entire life. It’s really time to give back to people who are not as fortunate as me.”
The Payton award, to be presented during Super Bowl week at the NFL Honors television show when The Associated Press reveals its individual award winners, recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. It was established in 1970 and renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame running back.
“This year has presented significant challenges for us all, from the ongoing global pandemic to the continued social injustices witnessed this year,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “The 32 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominees remind us that even in the face of adversity, players continue to raise awareness and use their voice and platform to positively impact their communities.
"The nominees will leave lasting legacies across the country in a time when we need leadership and strength the most.”
All 32 nominees will receive a $40,000 donation in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of his choice.
“Being nominated as the Chiefs' Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year is one of the greatest honors of my professional career,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “This team and this community have been an incredibly important part of my life for the past eight years, and I’m humbled because there are so many players who are also doing so much to serve others and are deserving of this recognition.