NFL Announces Finalists for 2015-16 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2016

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell presents the award for Walter Payton NFL  Man of the Year Award at 3rd annual NFL Honors at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision for NFL/AP Images)
Evan Agostini/Associated Press

With the Super Bowl rapidly approaching, the NFL recognized some of its players' best work off the field Sunday, announcing the finalists for the 2015-16 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Will Brinson of CBS Sports shared news of the finalists: San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin, New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. described the idea behind the award:

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 description also noted, "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."

The NFL on CBS passed along some images of the three finalists doing work in the community:

Payton’s son, Jarrett W. Payton, offered his congratulations to Boldin, Watson and Manning:

Watson responded by tweeting, “Such an honor. Many thanks to you and your wonderful family. God bless." Boldin also commented on the recognition, saying, “I’m honored to be a finalist for the Walter Payton MOY Award. Thank you for each of you who has supported me and the Q81 Foundation.”

Boldin was actually a finalist for last season’s award as well, and the ultimate winner, Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, offered a moving endorsement for the wide receiver, per Tyler Emerick of “He's very much deserving. It's tremendous what he's doing in the community. The lives he's been able to impact, it leaves me in awe.”

Emerick added that Boldin “is responsible for establishing the Anquan Boldin (Q81) Foundation, which for 12 years has been dedicated to expanding the educational and life opportunities of underprivileged well as distributing four-year college scholarships to deserving high school seniors.”

As for Watson, the Saints' official website described his penchant for giving back to the New Orleans community in various ways, which helped him earn recognition as one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of the Year in 2014.

Watson runs a charitable foundation deemed the Watson One More Foundation that tries to “be a blessing to individuals wherever they are, whether supporting existing charities or initiating programs of its own,” per the Saints' website.

Manning is the other finalist, and his team passed along an interview with the quarterback discussing how meaningful it is for him to be involved in the community.

Michael Eisen of the provided some reasoning behind Manning’s recognition:

There are many organizations with which Manning has long associations, and he is constantly looking to get involved with new groups. The former includes the March of Dimes, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and the Red Cross. He serves as a member of the American Red Cross' Celebrity Cabinet, urging people to perform extraordinary life-saving acts in dire circumstances through the assistance of the Red Cross. ... 

... One of his primary charitable endeavors is in Mississippi, where he was a star at Ole Miss and where he has a home. As part of the entire Manning family’s relationship with The University of Mississippi Medical Center, called the Manning Family Fund, he and his wife founded the Eli and Abby Manning Children’s Clinics at the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson, Miss.

The winner of the award will be announced at the NFL Honors award show on Feb. 6. A panel of judges that includes NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and last year’s winner, Davis, will determine who wins out of the three finalists.