A bright sunny day greeted the participants in the NFL Man of the Year Community Event which was held at the Warren Boys & Girls Club. As the crowd gathered, an impressive lineup of NFL players took front stage. Each of them had been nominated as an NFL Man of the Year by their teams.
In addition to the nominees (who are all listed below), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was joined by Missy Dugan, the President and CEO of Warren Boys and Girls Club as well as Terrence Williams, the Chief Marketing Officer of Nationwide.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year is one of the NFL’s most prestigious honors and is presented annually by Nationwide. The award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field.
What was particularly impressive was that so many of these nominees are elite players in the league. We believe that this highlights the dedication of the best players to giving back to their communities.
This year’s project involved the players teaming up with the students to build a new playground, work on beautification projects and participate in other activities around the center.
The introductions by Brittany and Jarrett Payton were powerful as they expressed their admiration for these nominees who continued the spirit of their father, Walter Payton.
Among the highlights on this gorgeous day were the students getting an opportunity play and work along-side these NFL stars.
- Moving dirt and planting small bushes. This is where Commissioner Goodell really took charge. It was impressive to see how hard he worked for the better part of an hour, shoveling dirt, moving the wheelbarrow and taking only brief breaks to take photos with the students and volunteers involved with the project. While many criticize the NFL for creating merely photo opps, this was definitely a situation where Commissioner Goodell and the other players truly participated for an extended period of time. You can see him here directing the traffic around the project and Sports Philanthropy Network founder Roy Kessel repeatedly heard him offering help to a tired student or volunteer.
- Shooting hoops and running drills inside the gym. Cheered on by the players, the students made every effort to get their shots in the hoop and there was a wide discrepancy in the rebounding ability of the various players. The gym was impressive with a large number of hoops, each decorated with inspirational messages.
- Catching passes and navigating through cones and obstacles on the football field. It was fantastic to hear the cheers and see the smiles from the kids that were able to catch the ball or successfully work through the obstacles. The players also had huge smiles on their faces and enjoyed watching the excitement of the kids.
- Working on a new playground. The kids took a variety of roles in work with the athletes to help improve the condition of the playground. Though further removed from the other activities, the students stayed engaged with their project and made a lot of progress in the condition of the playground.
- Planting trees. Given his legal background, Sports Philanthropy Network founder Roy Kessel was particularly concerned as he saw multiple students tumble down the hill into the bushes as they attempted to dig an appropriate spot for planting the trees. But none of them seemed any worse for the wear and they bounced up the cheers and jeers of their fellow students who got a good laugh at the fall.
Here is a list of the nominees who participated in the event:
- Arizona Cardinals-Antoine Bethea
- Atlanta Falcons-Grady Jarrett
- Baltimore Ravens-Brandon Carr
- Buffalo Bills-Lorenzo Alexander
- Carolina Panthers-Julius Peppers
- Chicago Bears-Trey Burton
- Cleveland Browns-Christian Kirksey
- Cincinnati Bengals-Carlos Dunlap
- Dallas Cowboys-Dak Prescott
- Denver Broncos-Von Miller
- Detroit Lions-Matthew Stafford
- Green Bay Packers-Kenny Clark
- Houston Texans-Whitney Mercilus
- Indianapolis Colts-Jabaal Sheard
- Jacksonville Jaguars-Blake Bortles
- Kansas City Chiefs-Dustin Colquitt
- Los Angeles Chargers-Corey Liuget
- Miami Dolphins-Kenny Stills
- Minnesota Vikings-Kyle Rudolph
- New Orleans Saints-Mark Ingram
- New York Giants-Michael Thomas
- New York Jets-Kelvin Beachum
- Oakland Raiders-Marshawn Lynch
- Philadelphia Eagles-Chris Long
- Pittsburgh Steelers-Cameron Heyward
- San Francisco 49ers-Robbie Gould
- Seattle Seahawks-KJ Wright
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Gerald McCoy
- Tennessee Titans-Jurrell Casey
Special thanks to Liz McCollum at BZR PR for helping coordinate our access at this event and making sure that we had all of the details for the event.