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Cowboys' DeMarcus Lawrence on Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination: 'It's truly a blessing' 

For 10 seasons now, Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has been a force between the lines. But his equally impactful actions away from the gridiron are what led him to become the Cowboys' 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee.

"It's truly a blessing," Lawrence told of the nomination in an interview earlier this month. "I wrap my life around faith, family and football. To believe and also go out and serve others as a passion of my faith. Just to see it come around full circle. God blessed me with this nomination and the opportunity to be Walter Payton Man of the Year. I'm truly blessed."

The winner of the league's highest honor -- either Lawrence or one of his 31 peers nominated across the league -- will be announced during NFL Honors on Feb. 8, ahead of Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.

Lawrence has spent the entirety of his professional career with Dallas, going back to his selection in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, meaning he's had time to lay down deep charitable roots across the community.

The three-time Pro Bowler was established enough by his third season to give serious consideration to starting his own foundation, but given the numerous life-changing organizations already operating locally, he ultimately opted to enhance the reach of many of those rather than add one of his own.

"One thing I started to think in my third year is, I want to start a foundation, but I sat down with my wife, and we were talking," he explained. "There are so many foundations out here, it's like, best partner up and help them instead of trying to create something new that's going to be the same."

Helping anywhere he can, Lawrence has been especially cognizant of needs in both the homeless and the youth communities in Dallas-Fort Worth and surrounding areas.

His donations include $7,500 through a WSS Shoe store grand opening event, $5,000 worth of clothing for South Oak Cliff High School students ahead of the holidays and support for other events, such as the Questlove Hip Hop Brunch for Creative Solutions Program and Thriving Minds afterschool program, a nonprofit he again provided with donated clothing and shoes.

Lawrence has raised money with an annual event called Cars & Cause; in 2022, he and his wife, Sasha, hosted a Cars & Cause gala that surpassed a fundraising goal of $100,000 to support four different local nonprofits. He has also partnered with the P&G Truckloads of Giving campaign to provide over 500 families with necessary hygiene products like diapers and laundry detergent.

But beyond the giving, Lawrence's highest priority is being present for any youth in need.

To help boost literacy and writing skills, Lawrence reads to children at events like Reading Makes You a Superhero. He also cherishes memories of visits to Boys & Girls Clubs organizations, recounting to a trip to one in Oak Cliff, Texas, just before the 2023 season that included basketball, kickball, pizza and, most importantly, giving attention to the kids involved.

Lawrence's goal during such outings is to provide youth with another positive mentor to look up to and "see what's coming from his life so they can have a vision of what they want for theirs."

"I grew up in -- you could say it's 'rough' or you could say it's 'country' -- I grew up in a rural area," Lawrence said. "One thing my dad told me growing up is, 'Son, every man is a product of their environment.' So whatever environment that you're in, the environment is going to be able to take over one day if you're not careful or you don't change the environment around you.

"So that's the main thing. I have kids. I understand everybody's not fortunate to come from a civil background, so I just want to make sure I'm leading the right way in my household, but also making sure every kid gets whatever they need to succeed in life. Because we only get one opportunity at that life."

Lawrence continues to make the most of his opportunity.

And his generosity doesn't end when he dons his helmet, either. While helping Dallas to an NFC East title and its third consecutive 12-win season, Lawrence racked up 4.0 sacks -- good for a $20,000 contribution to the North Texas Food Bank, thanks to his partnership with Globe Life, the official life insurance partner of the Cowboys. Lawrence is donating $2,500 for each of those sacks, with Globe Life matching that amount.

He'll be able to stack another donation on top of that to his charity of choice, whether or not he wins the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in February.

All 32 nominees receive a $55,000 donation, while the winner receives $250,000, courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.

Dak Prescott, who happened to be the one to surprise Lawrence by announcing his teammate's nomination at a Lowe's Christmas event, took home the hardware last year.

Whatever happens on Feb. 8, the long-time Cowboy has already made an indelible mark.

"Words really can't describe the way I feel about this award," he said. "It definitely shows the type of character that you have off the field, and that's what I want to be known for."

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