Walter Payton was taken far too soon, but his legacy carries on, much as he did through the autumns -- running strong, embodying pride and perseverance, demonstrating ability along with grace and class.
Payton left it all on the field and gave of himself off it.
Thusly, as has now become a yearly tradition at NFL Honors, the final accolade of the evening is the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, presented to a player in recognition of his "outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on it."
On Thursday morning, the 32 nominees for the NFL's most prestigious honor were unveiled:
|Arizona Cardinals||Corey Peters|
|Atlanta Falcons||Steven Means|
|Baltimore Ravens||Bradley Bozeman|
|Buffalo Bills||Harrison Phillips|
|Carolina Panthers||Shaq Thompson|
|Chicago Bears||Jimmy Graham|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Geno Atkins|
|Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett|
|Dallas Cowboys||Jaylon Smith|
|Denver Broncos||Justin Simmons|
|Detroit Lions||Trey Flowers|
|Green Bay Packers||Corey Linsley|
|Houston Texans||Michael Thomas|
|Indianapolis Colts||Jacoby Brissett|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Josh Lambo|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Travis Kelce|
|Las Vegas Raiders||Alec Ingold|
|Los Angeles Chargers||Isaac Rochell|
|Los Angeles Rams||Andrew Whitworth|
|Miami Dolphins||Byron Jones|
|Minnesota Vikings||Eric Kendricks|
|New England Patriots||Devin McCourty|
|New Orleans Saints||Demario Davis|
|New York Giants||Dalvin Tomlinson|
|New York Jets||Pierre Desir|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Rodney McLeod|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Vance McDonald|
|San Francisco 49ers||Arik Armstead|
|Seattle Seahawks||Russell Wilson|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Mike Evans|
|Tennessee Titans||Kevin Byard|
|Washington Football Team||Jonathan Allen|
"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 in a statement. "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."
Then with the Jacksonville Jaguars, current Baltimore Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell was the 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. There are currently six active players who have won the award -- Drew Brees, Jason Witten, Thomas Davis, Larry Fitzgerald, J.J. Watt and Campbell. All of the active award recipients continue to wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year patch on their jerseys. Beginning in Week 14, all 2020 nominees will wear an NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of their accomplishments on and off the field.
"I am incredibly thankful that football has provided me with a platform to give back," 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of The Year Award-winner Chris Long said after winning award, "and I am proud that so many of my colleagues have decided to use this stage to create positive and impactful change in our local communities and around the world."
The 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, which will air on CBS the week of Super Bowl LV. Each nominee will receive a $40,000 donation in their name to their chosen charity, while the winner will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice.
"My goal when I give back is to inspire people; to encourage people to believe that dreams are achievable if you put the work in," Campbell said after receiving his 2019 award. "Everybody, and I mean everybody, can give back. Wherever you are in your life, it doesn't matter where you are in your life, but reach back and help someone. It's our duty to help our neighbors. Even if you can only give five minutes to someone in need, give it to them. That one-on-one quality time, that little bit of extra time can make a world of difference. Those five minutes can change a life. Walter Payton spent time with my coach, which, in turn, ended up having a strong impact on me. Walter Payton strived to have an impact on the world; we should all strive to be more like Walter Payton."