Three community-minded NFL players will be recognized during Super Bowl week as finalists for the WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD, it was announced today. THOMAS DAVIS of the Carolina Panthers, JAY FEELY of the Arizona Cardinals and CHARLES TILLMAN of the Chicago Bears are the top candidates for this year's award, named for the legendary Bears running back who died in 1999.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is the only league award that recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will be announced in New York, the site of Super Bowl XLVIII, during the third annual NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Saturday, February 1, from 8-10 p.m. (ET) on FOX.
Recent winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award include JASON WITTEN of the Dallas
Cowboys, MATT BIRK, then of the Baltimore Ravens (2011), MADIEU WILLIAMS, then of the Minnesota Vikings (2010). (Complete lists of players nominated for this year's award and previous winners are below).
The three finalists were chosen from among the 32 team nominees for the award, all of whom receive a $1,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice. The three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name. The selection panel is comprised of NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL, former NFL Commissioner PAUL TAGLIABUE, CONNIE PAYTON, Pro Football Hall of Fame members FRANK GIFFORD and ANTHONY MUÑOZ, 2012 winner JASON WITTEN, and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive the Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, DANIEL SCHWARTZ. In addition, the player's favorite charity will receive an additional $20,000 donation in his name.
THOMAS DAVIS (Carolina Panthers)
Selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Davis has spent his entire 9-year professional career with the Panthers. A three-year captain, Davis successfully returned to the field of play following three ACL reconstructions in the same knee. His return propelled the 2013 Panthers to a 2nd ranked defense, a NFC South Division Championship and a no. 2 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Davis' play on the field also earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for November. He set or tied career highs for tackles, sacks, interceptions and passes defensed.
Davis transitions his energy and leadership on the field directly into the community. In 2007, he and his wife Kelly founded the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation (TDDDF), a non-profit dedicated to providing and promoting free programs that enhance the quality of life for more than 2,000 underprivileged children and their families annually. The foundation's cornerstone program, the Youth Leadership Academy, is a 14-week afterschool mentoring program for low-income middle school students. Davis annually provides two college scholarships for graduating high school seniors who have completed the Youth Leadership Academy program. The TDDDF hosts annual programs including a back-to-school supply giveaway, a Thanksgiving meal at a battered women's shelter and a Christmas gift giveaway for underprivileged children, both in Charlotte and in Davis' hometown in Georgia.
This past June, Davis led the construction of the first and only playground in his small rural hometown of Shellman, GA. In addition, his annual free football camp provides over 350 children with instruction in football basics with a focus on life skills. Davis is active in the Panthers PLAY 60 efforts and is an ongoing supporter of the team's pediatric hospital visits. In 2013, Davis was voted by his teammates as the Carolina Panthers nominee for the Byron "Whizzer" White Award, the NFLPA's annual award for on and off the field dedication.
NFL/ WFMY News 2 Sports