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The NFL needs to rethink the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award

It’s time to rethink how the NFL picks only one philanthropic champion.

New Orleans Saints Drew Brees Set Number: X162241 TK1

For the past 12 years, the NFL Honors has been a ceremony that celebrates the best of the National Football League year like the AP Most Valuable Player, presented by Invisalign, the announcement of the new Pro Football Hall of Fame Class, the Head and Shoulders Never Not Working Protection Play of the Year Award, and everything else in between. It’s great fun and provides fanfare right before the Super Bowl.

But I think a certain award has become shallow and outdated and needs to be revamped.

It’s the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

For someone who feels the content of a person’s character is more important than the Next Gen Stats of the players who perform every week, I would like to see this award altered.

If you don’t know, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (WPMOY) award is presented annually by the league to honor a player’s commitment to philanthropy and community impact, as well as excellence on the field. Beginning in 1970, the honor was simply called the NFL Man of the Year Award. But after the passing of the 1977 winner, the award was renamed to honor that player, Walter Payton, and his great legacy as a humanitarian.

Each year, a winner is selected from 32 nominees, one from all 32 teams under the NFL shield. A committee including the NFL commissioner and an assortment of past winners award a $250,000 donation in the winner’s name to a charity of that player’s choice and the right to wear the WPMOY patch on their jersey. All other 31 nominees receive up to $40,000 donated to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide, the award’s sponsor.

All that is well and good, but why do we need just one winner? Let me be clear, I’m not a “participation trophy” guy. I am a firm believer that not winning build’s character, but this situation is different.

Here’s my thinking. 28 players were named First-Team All-Pro in 2022, sure there’s ultimately an MVP that is selected out of that group of greats, but those players aren’t volunteering to play well. It’s how they gain fame, fortune and legendary status.

Also, that evening in a beautiful moment, Damar Hamlin stood in front of a large number of medical staff and first responders that saved his life. I would have loved to have seen the names of each of those brave and heroic people on a scroll across the screen.

But the WPMOY is different.

Dak Prescott’s cause and personal story is significant, and his mission to focus on colon cancer research, mental health/suicide prevention, bridging the gap between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and offering assistance to those facing life-challenging hardships is fantastic.

But why are those causes more important than that of Jaylon Johnson of the Chicago Bears honoring a murdered childhood friend with a platform to empower and motivate underprivileged communities, while giving them equal opportunities to succeed instead of succumbing to a life of crime?

Why is it more important than Jared Goff of the Detroit Lions fronting therapy sessions for 330 children who have experienced trauma?

And why is it more important than everything Pittsburgh Steelers captain Cam Heyward does year-after-year? Heyward’s work off the field has expanded a number of programs.

  • Craig’s Closet program to 10 high schools in the Pittsburgh Public School District to provide them suits for job interviews
  • A Teacher Appreciation Dinner at Steelers 2022 Training Camp with $10,000 in donations
  • Cam’s Heyward House Foundation and the Blessings in a Backpack program for elementary school-aged kids to take home nutritious food over the weekend, partnering with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to donate $10,000 to expand the program to provide 9,300 meals
  • Cam’s Kindness Week and so much more

It’s not more important. It’s equally as important.

So are the efforts of Zach Ertz, Chris Lindstrom, Chuck Clark, Dion Dawkins, Derrick Brown, Sam Hubbard, Joel Bitonio, Dalton Risner, Aaron Jones, Christian Kirksey, Shaquille Leonard, Tyler Shatley, Patrick Mahomes, A.J. Cole, Derwin James, Tremayne Anchrum, Jaelan Phillips, Adam Thielen, Lawrence Guy, Demario Davis, Saquon Barkley, Solomon Thomas, Brandon Graham, Arik Armstead, Tyler Lockett, William Gholston, Derrick Henry and Charles Leno Jr.

Having only one person named the winner of such an important award diminishes the philanthropic accomplishments of all of these great men.

In a tweet, the five-time nominee was gracious about not being honored and that tweet was the personification of the high level of character that makes up all 32 of the men that were nominated, every single winner since 1970 and the gentleman that the award is named after now.

When it comes to helping others, why can’t the NFL honor all 32 of these men as the Walter Payton Men of the Year. These men surrounded Dak on the field at the Super Bowl Sunday, so there was room for them all there. It’s helping others, and singling one out as the best discounts the causes that help so many others. There’s enough patches to go around for 32 kind souls to wear them above their hearts on their jerseys.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Super Bowl LVII Set Number: X164305 TK1

To listen to more about this, Check out this week’s Bad Language on the player below.