CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Never underestimate the power of Panthers fans on social media.
Tight end Greg Olsen was selected as the team’s nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, given annually to a player for his excellence on and off the field, particularly for players who have a significant positive impact on their community.
On the field, Olsen made NFL history during the 2016-17 season. He became the first tight end to ever record three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving. Off it, Olsen’s impact went even further.
In 2013, Olsen created the HEARTest Yard Fund after a routine exam of his unborn son T.J. revealed the infant suffered from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a congenital defect marked by an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta. The charity works in conjunction with Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte to provide families of babies affected by congenital heart disease with a multitude of services.
As part of the Man of the Year campaign, the NFL and presenting sponsor Nationwide opened the second Walter Payton Man of the Year Charity Challenge. The rules are simple: Fans are encouraged to post on social media using their favorite nominee’s hashtag. The player with the most hashtag mentions will win an extra $25,000 to his charity of choice.
As an incentive to push Olsen over the top, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera tweeted that if his tight end received one million votes, he’d make a personal donation to Olsen’s foundation and Levine Children’s Hospital.
No problem, coach.
For even more motivation, Olsen tweeted that for every RT he received Sunday, he and his wife would donate up to $25,000 for his charity as well as Levine Children's Hospital. Consider Mr. Olsen 25 grand lighter in the wallet.
Thanks to the power of Panthers fans worldwide, and a few celebrity endorsements, Olsen tallied north of one million votes by Sunday night’s deadline. Included in Olsen’s camp: Entertainers Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and William Shatner, and NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award will be announced during the NFL Honors show the night before the Super Bowl.
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