As the 2019 NFL regular season comes to a close, it's easy to get lost in the ups and downs of what's going on between the lines, as some teams scratch and claw for a chance to play in January, while others have either secured their position, or find themselves already left in the cold thanks to a disappointing season. It's key to remember what goes on outside the lines as well though, with NFL players taking a real stand in their local community to help drive change. The more active ones are being recognized for their efforts.
The nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award are not only recognized for what they do on the field, but also off it, which is a nod to the dual greatness of the man the honor is named after. Established in 1970, the award was renamed in 1999 to honor the Hall of Fame running back and Chicago Bears legend, who passed away in November of that year from terminal illness.
Each team nominates one player who goes far above and beyond in the community, and the winner receives $250,000 to be donated to the charity of their choice. The remaining 31 will receive a $50,0000 donation to their favorite charity, courtesy of Nationwide Insurance and the NFL Foundation. The winner will be announced on the eve of Super Bowl LIV.
Here are the 32 nominees, and be sure to click the links to each player's charity to learn how you can be a part of their respective causes:
Johnson has proven he can be one of the more lethal halfbacks in the NFL, but he's looking to help save lives off the field, addressing the illnesses being suffered by children whom The Johnson Family's Mission 31 Foundation is designed to help. The charity helps serve pediatric patients in the Phoenix area and is expanding their goals to include assistance to special needs children and their families in 2019.
Joining the Falcons in 2014 as a fifth-round pick, Allen has become one of the most important players on the Atlanta roster, and one of the most community-driven as well. As one of the team's captains, Allen works heavily with the Falcons' Social Justice Players Committee, focused on attacking the injustices that currently plague metro Atlanta and the surrounding area.
Carr is no stranger to being nominated for this award, having also landed the nod in 2015 as a member of the Cowboys and in 2018 with the Ravens, meaning this year marks back-to-back nominations for the veteran cornerback. There are few players in the league who exude the dedication to serving others as Carr does, and his Carr Cares Foundation continues to be the gold standard for community outreach.
Being an NFL player is more to Alexander than simply looking great on film and on a stat line; it's about using the platform to affect change wherever he can. This is where his Aces Foundation comes in, creating a support system for youth in the Buffalo community to realize their dreams. Their mantra of "Every Child is a Diamond" gives a clear image of what drives them, and Alexander as well.
While the football headlines focused on Newton being sidelined much of this season with a Lisfranc injury in his foot, what he's been able to achieve in North Carolina with the Cam Newton Foundation is nothing short of excelsior. An expansive charity that provides support in a variety of ways -- be it financial, educational, emotional and more -- Newton's charity work has always been a staple of his greatness.
Allen Robinson - Chicago Bears
Robinson spent most of his NFL career with the Jaguars before joining the Bears, but he's wasted no time ingratiating himself with the Chicago community. His Within Reach foundation is an all-encompassing outreach program whose goal is to impact 5,000 students "by the end of 2020," making him not only one of the more dominant receivers in the game, but also one with a huge heart.
Born to Haitian immigrants in Florida, Bernard didn't have a silver spoon hanging from his mouth as he grew up. His family fought hard to provide a way of life for him and his siblings, but thyroid cancer claimed his mother's life in 1999, and his Bernard Family Foundation dedicates all of its efforts to her memory -- seeking to give "underprivileged children a platform for success" through "education, athletics and lessons in core values."
A rabid supporter in the fight against cystic fibrosis, Landry lost his high school sweetheart to the inherited disease and the cause has remained close to his heart. One of his recent events -- the Jarvis Landry Sports Challenge -- was held this past summer to help raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the four-time Pro Bowl wideout will continue to take up the mantle against the illness.
Frederick isn't only a nominee for this award, but also a frontrunner for NFL Comeback Player of the Year after returning to football only one season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. His story is a miraculous one, and he never let his struggles with the illness dampen what his charity -- the Blocking Out Hunger Foundation -- does to help eradicate childhood hunger in Dallas.
Simmons has become one of the more impactful players on the Broncos roster, but he's just as important to Denver because of what he does from Monday through Saturday. Routinely lending his efforts to whatever worthy cause he can, the former third-round pick has become a household name in the Mile High City, and for all the right reasons.
The beauty of some of the names on this list is the willingness to dig their heels into a new community, after having spent several years doing so elsewhere. Kennard is right there in that mix, having joined the Lions in 2018 after several seasons with the Giants, and his philanthropy hasn't missed a step. His close work with the Midnight Golf Program in Detroit led to him launching the Devon Kennard Scholarship Fund in 2019, and his good deeds continue to grow by the day.
Martinez makes sure he touches as many lives as possible, and that's led him to continually give back not only to the Green Bay community where he lives and works, but also in his home state of Arizona. His level of commitment to volunteering at homeless shelters and visiting children's hospitals -- as two examples of his charitable drive -- led him to be awarded the Packers community service award for 2019, and now he's up for the league-wide honor.
D.J. Reader - Houston Texans
There's a cause that hits close to home for Reader, and it's because he lost his father, David, to kidney failure. Since then, Reader has actively supported the National Kidney Foundation, and is already the recipient of the team's Spirit of the Bull award for outstanding community service efforts. A member of the Texans since 2016, Reader has become one of the team's best at helping others.
The veteran cornerback is well-traveled at the NFL level, but he's never let his dedication to his respective community change simply because he was asked to relocate. Now with the Colts since 2017, Desir supports several worthy causes including the Breaking Boundaries Foundation, a charity that helps support youth in their dream of academic and athletic success.
Anyone who knows Campbell knows what he's about, and it's not simply devouring opposing quarterbacks. His CRC Foundation (The Charles Richard Campbell Foundation) does phenomenal work in helping youth develop, but he doesn't stop there. He often uses his sack tally as a driving force for financial donations to a variety of charities/causes on a monthly basis, supporting everything from mental illness via the United Way, to veteran support via Wounded Warrior Project and lots in-between.
Punters need love too, and Colquitt is one who gives more than he might receive and he never bats an eye when doing it. The 37-year-old has been a stalwart in the Kansas City area since joining the Chiefs in 2005, and his Pro Bowl play is pleasantly overshadowed by longtime support of TeamSmile -- providing free dental care to underprivileged children -- whom Colquitt has been known to raise money for by contributing $500 for every punt that pins the opposition within the 20-yard line.
Name a cause and Nwosu likely has his fingerprints on it, but one he champions vehemently was seen in his My Cause, My Cleats support of the Children's Diabetes Foundation, but he's also active in various team initiatives that includes the Summer Night Lights program in Los Angeles to help curb gang participation in the city and surrounding area(s). All Nwosu has known since birth is Los Angeles, and that's a big reason why he gives so much to see it become better.
The four-time Pro Bowl and two-time first-team All-Pro offensive tackle joined the Rams in 2017, and got right to work getting things done in the community. The Big Whit Foundation not only helps support higher education through its Whit's Warriors scholarship program, but also offers financial assistance to families pursuing adoption, and their Wish List teams with colleges in Louisiana -- Whitworth's home state -- to treat 10 families each holiday season to an evening they won't forget.
"At the end of the day, it's all about doing the right thing, on and off the field." That's what Godchaux said in November, and it's not empty rhetoric. The veteran defensive lineman is uber-active in the Miami area through his Chaux Down Foundation, which also provides outreach back in his hometown of Plaquemine, Louisiana. Having partnered with Microsoft in 2019, the foundation provides support to at-risk youth with programs that include healthy nutrition and exercise.
It's not the first time Rudolph has been nominated by the Vikings for the Man of the Year award, and won't be his last if he continues to thrive in community support as he has in the past and does presently. In 2017, he opened Kyle Rudolph's End Zone at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital as a means of providing some sense of normalcy for children going through treatments, and his efforts don't stop there. Rudolph continues to be a darling in Minnesota, and not simply because he can catch a football.
Van Noy received the Ron Burton Community Service Award in 2019 for his involvement in the local area, and his Van Noy Valor Foundation continues to contribute mightily to disadvantaged adopted and foster youth in the city. It's a cause that hits home for Van Noy, himself having been adopted as an infant and his wife, Marissa, having a father and brother who were adopted. Van Noy joined the Patriots in 2016 via trade with the Lions, and he's certainly made his knew home just that -- a home.
The veteran offensive tackle is great at protecting the blindside of Drew Brees, but he's just as productive at what he does in the New Orleans community. Armstead doesn't stop there, however, also providing support to his hometown of Cahokia, Illinois, and all through the Terron Armstead Foundation, offering athletic camps as well to help underserved youth athletes hone their skills, and handing out thousands of dollars in scholarships to high school student athletes who otherwise may not get a shot at going to college.
To know Solder is to know a gentle giant off the field, no pun intended. Even more impressive than his local area givings is his willingness to travel abroad to do the same, recently having done work in Uganda with Compassion International, and joining with Americares to deliver aid to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Solder is also a fiery advocate for cancer research through his support of AACR Foundation, himself being a survivor of testicular cancer and his 4-year-old son, Hudson, having been diagnosed with a Wilms tumor in his kidneys at the age of three months old -- never allowing any of that to take away from helping others.
Harrison's rod to where he stands now in the NFL wasn't an easy one, but the former undrafted free agent is no stranger to adversity, and that's a key reason he takes time to help those in need. If there's a cause he can help support in the local community, you can count him in as one willing to do so. One he fights vehemently for is STOMP Out Bullying, which he made his torch for the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats campaign in 2019.
Whitehead has only been in Oakland for just under two seasons, but you'd never be able to tell when looking at his impact in the Bay Area community. Previously, his efforts in the Detroit area were renowned as a member of the Lions, when he helped support underprivileged youth through youth athletics, and he's doing the same in Oakland as an staunch advocate for childhood education and athletics.
You can't mention community service and the NFL without pointing at Jenkins, who has been a leader for years in this regard, alongside that which he provides on the field for the Eagles defense. The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation is one of the most active charities in the City of Philadelphia, and the Pro Bowl defensive back was named one of the "100 Most Influential People in Philadelphia" this year because of it.
When he's not going all out to protect his quarterback, the Steelers center is helping The Pouncey Foundation give back to Pittsburgh. The foundation is aimed at helping disadvantaged youth in the area and providing opportunities for at-risk children, having given more than $10 million to the cause through various grants and programs. It's not only what Pouncey's charity does in Pittsburgh that garners recognition, but also in his home state of Florida.
What Sherman has done to revive what many saw as a dying career is remarkable, but even more so because he's done it in a city that was once his bitter rival. The All-Pro corner has embraced San Francisco as his own and that includes his charity, Blanket Coverage, the Richard Sherman Family Foundation, helping to support students in low-income communities via supplies, clothing and whatever else they may need.
Sherman's former teammate is still dominating in Seattle, with or without his helmet on. Wagner is an All-Pro linebacker who is as relentless off the field as he is on it, and his philanthropy is well-known, and it extends beyond Seahawks country. Wagner routinely partners with various charities to help provide support to those who need it most.
If you watch the NFL even casually, you know what Evans can do to an opposing defense. Though he's unfortunately relegated to injured reserve to finish the season due to a hamstring injury, Evans remains keenly focused on his charity work in the Tampa area and back home in Galveston, Texas. His Mike Evans Family Foundation provides assistance to the less-fortunate that includes hosting free football camps and recently donating thousands of dollars to both Texas A&M and the University of Central Florida to aid with scholarships.
You should know Jones from being the centerpiece of the Titans offensive line, but you also need to know him because of the work done by his The Jones Mission charity. With a focus on educational assistance to underprivileged youth, Jones and his foundation provide grants and additional resources to help those in need. His mission is to "give at-risk youth a chance to succeed," and he's doing just that.
This is the second time in three seasons Sundberg has landed this nomination, and that tells you just how fueled he is by helping others. He partnered with the Redskins in 2017 to launch the Loads of Love program to install washers and dryers in schools, serving children who don't have access to clean clothes. He's since donated $25,000 to further the cause, his belief being students with clean clothes are less likely to avoid school out of shame, and more likely to do well when they attend, thanks to a boost in confidence and morale.