The NFL announced the three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide at a press conference at the Moscone Media Center in San Francisco Friday morning. San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson are the three finalists chosen for the honor.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. The award was established in 1970. It was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton.
Each team nominates one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community. The nominees for Super Bowl 50 participants were Denver Broncos safety David Burton Jr. and Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen’s team mate linebacker Thomas Davis was the recipient of this same honor last season.
Walter Payton’s daughter, Brittney Payton, addressed the audience and spoke of the community service work the finalists are doing.
“Benjamin Watson’s ONE MORE foundation carries the hope and love of Christ who need it most… While understanding the best and effective way to reach people’s hearts is by first meeting their physical needs.”
“Eli Manning is an avid supporter of causes that support children… Eli and his wife founded the Eli and Abby Children’s Clinics in 2007 and kicked off a five-year funding campaign raising nearly $3 million.”
“Anquan Boldin continues to seize opportunities to save lives… The Anquan Boldin (Q81) Foundation was formed in 2004 with a mission to expand the education and life opportunities of underprivileged youths.
Watson hosts several youth football camps, is a spokesperson for All Pro Dads and annually holds an annual event where he selects 25 families from a domestic shelter and treats them to a shopping spree for their family’s needs.
“It’s an honor to be standing in front of you as a finalist,” Watson said. “I want to thank the Payton family for continuing to being an example of excellence. One thing my wife and I always talk about is leaving a legacy not only for our children but other people we come in contact with.”
Manning had served as the chairman of the New York March for Babies, Tackle Kids’ Cancer, Guiding Eyes’ for the Blind and other charities to add to his own foundation. He also recently partnered with FedEx for their newly established program.
“I really want to thank Nationwide and the Walter Payton Man of the Year [committee] for supporting and recognizing all the great works NFL players are doing in their communities,” Manning said. “It’s funny having known these guys for 12 years. We all trained together back in 2004. Our finest moments won’t be the catches, the touchdowns or our successes on the field but the impact we’ve made on people’s lives in our communities.”
Boldin was the 2014 recipient of the NFLPA Byron “Whizzer” White Award, which recognizes the player who goes above and beyond to perform community service. Boldin’s Q81 foundation has showcased charitable activities in Phoenix, Baltimore, South Florida and the San Francisco Bay Area — all communities he has lived and served in throughout his playing career.
“I was definitely honored to be here,” said Boldin. “The things that we do in the community is not for accolades. It’s because we truly feel in our heart that it’s the right thing to do. We want to see people succeed and be successful in their lives, as well.”
The winner will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime special airing nationally on Saturday, the night before Super Bowl 50, from 9-11 p.m. ET on CBS.
The winner will receive a $55,000 donation in his name to a charity of his choice and the two runners-up will receive an $11,000 donation. The other 29 team finalists received a $5,000 donation. Donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.