Wal­ter Pay­ton Award means so much to nom­i­nees

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Barry Wilner

Win­ning any of the AP's in­di­vid­ual NFL awards, from MVP to top rookie, means plenty to play­ers.

Be­ing nom­i­nated for, no less win­ning, the Wal­ter Pay­ton Man of the Year award means more.

Don't min­i­mize how proud a guy is when he's voted one of the pres­ti­gious in­di­vid­ual awards. It's a por­tion of his re­sume that jumps off the page the way Saquon Barkley hur­dles over po­ten­tial tack­lers.

But be­ing se­lected for the Pay­ton award, re­named in 1999 for the great Chicago Bears run­ning back and hu­man­i­tar­ian, in­volves so much more than foot­ball achieve­ments.

“It is prob­a­bly one of my great­est ac­com­plish­ments,” says 2013 win­ner Charles Till­man, who played 12 sea­sons at cor­ner­back for the Bears and his fi­nal year with the Pan­thers. “It re­ally shows the true char­ac­ter of a per­son.

“When fans see us, they just as­sume a lot of times we are just ath­letes. They don't know what these men do on their days off dur­ing the sea­son, in the com­mu­nity. A lot of play­ers re­ally put their com­mu­nity ser­vice in ev­ery week of the year. They get their char­ity work done and their vol­un­teer work.

“The Wal­ter Pay­ton Award is about ex­cel­lence off the field. I am proud to be as­so­ci­ated with that award.”

Who wouldn't be? In a time when many NFL play­ers have been crit­i­cized or even con­demned for their protests of so­cial and racial in­jus­tice dur­ing the na­tional an­them, many — if not most of them — also have been do­ing good deeds in their com­mu­ni­ties. They don't do it for recog­ni­tion or ap­plause. As Till­man notes, they do it be­cause they can “shed light on a big­ger thing. It's not just foot­ball. It's about be­ing a good per­son, serv­ing other peo­ple and lov­ing other peo­ple.”

Un­like in the past, when three fi­nal­ists were se­lected be­fore a re­cip­i­ent was cho­sen, one player from ev­ery NFL team is a fi­nal­ist. All will be rec­og­nized and par­tic­i­pate in NFL func­tions dur­ing Su­per Bowl week. The Man of the Year will be re­vealed at NFL Hon­ors, when The As­so­ci­ated Press' in­di­vid­ual NFL awards are an­nounced Feb. 2 in At­lanta.

Five cur­rent play­ers have won the award: Drew Brees, Thomas Davis, Larry Fitzger­ald, Eli Man­ning and J.J. Watt, and they wear a Man of the Year patch on their jer­seys. All 2018 fi­nal­ists will wear a Man of the Year hel­met de­cal be­gin­ning this week through the end of the sea­son.

“It's a tremen­dous honor,” Jets of­fen­sive tackle Kelvin Beachum says. This week, Beachum sur­prised Ca'moore Jones, an eighth grade stu­dent at Orange Prepara­tory Academy in New Jersey, with two Su­per Bowl tick­ets. Moore was nom­i­nated by his teacher, Glenn Gam­ble, for his per­for­mance and growth with the Char­ac­ter Play­book course that is em­braced by the NFL.

“Just the name Wal­ter Pay­ton, he's the gold stan­dard,” Beachum said. “What he did off the field and on the field, his ex­cel­lence is bar none, top in his­tory. So to be men­tioned in the same name and the same breath as him, it's truly hum­bling.”

KEVIN C. COX/GETTY IM­AGES

Chris Long has been cho­sen to be the Ea­gles’ fi­nal­ist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.