Who Will Win the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year?

Written by: Mike Lukas
Updated October 14, 2022
17 min read

To play in the National Football League, a young man has to be athletically talented at the highest of levels, and he also has to excel in mental and physical toughness in order to survive and thrive in the complex and brutal sport of professional football.

To be considered for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year (WPMOY) Award, however, a young man must possess all of the above on-the-field magic plus a whole lot of off-the-field compassion, dedication to his community and a willingness to connect with, assist and inspire those who are less fortunate.

For almost half a century, the NFL has been awarding its WPMOY Award and in the beginning of February 2019, this season’s winner will be announced.

Some WPMOY Award FAQ’s answered…

We’ve gathered all of the information we could find about the WPMOY Award and answered as many frequently asked questions as we could.

So read on for the who, what, where, when and why of the 2018 WPMOY Award and discover the softer side of these gridiron beasts.

It’s incredible to see how much overall good comes from the unselfish choices and tireless efforts made by these amazing young men.

What exactly is the WPMOY Award?

The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes NFL players for their excellence on and off the field.

Through their nomination process and the eventual award ceremony of this honor, the world sees examples of NFL players giving back to their community by connecting and inspiring those with special needs or chipping in and lending a hand to communities decimated by poverty or tragic weather conditions.

What does the NFL Commissioner say about the WPMOY Award?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said this about the 2018 award:

“The Man of the Year Award gives us the opportunity to acknowledge 32 exemplary players whose commitment to excellence extends on and off the field.

“This year’s nominees have used their platforms to transform communities across the country.

“We are proud of their work and celebrate their dedication and impact through this award.”

What year was the WPMOY Award created?

The WPMOY award was originally known as the NFL Man of the Year Award and was established 48 years ago in 1970.

When did the WPMOY Award get its current name?

On November 1, 1999, one of the NFL’s most skilled, compassionate and universally beloved players, Hall of Fame running back Walter ‘Sweetness’ Payton, died from a rare liver disease at the age of 45.

That same year, the NFL under then commissioner Paul Tagliabue decided to rename the league’s Man of the Year award after Payton, a former recipient, in order to honor his legacy as a humanitarian.

From that point forward it was called the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

How are players nominated for WPMOY Award?

Each of the thirty-two NFL teams receives a single nomination.

Out of those thirty-two, the player who has had the most significant positive impact on his community that season and in general is chosen as the award winner.

The good deeds of all nominees, however, are celebrated throughout the process.

Who selects the winner of the WPMOY Award?

A panel of judges determines the WPMOY Award winner.

That panel is made up of the Commissioner of the NFL, currently Roger Goodell, Connie Payton, the widow of Walter Payton, the previous year’s winner and a number of former players.

What does the winning player receive this year?

First off, the winner receives a trophy that’s based on a sculpture that the NFL commissioned from artist Daniel Bennett Schwartz when the award was originally created back in 1970.

The sculpture is titled “The Gladiator” and like the bronzed trophy modeled after it, features an old-school football player fully helmeted and uniformed with his chin up, wearing a thick sideline cape for warmth.

The winner also receives a great deal of money, but there’s a slight catch.

How much money is awarded and what’s the catch?

A total of $500,000 will be donated to charity in the name of the 2018 winner.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • The winner receives $250,000 donated to United Way in his name to expand Character Playbook* across the country;
  • Up to $250,000 is donated to the winner’s charity of choice. 

*Character Playbook is a “digital character education program” presented by the NFL and United Way designed to help middle school students in nearly 30 states learn how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships.

Do the thirty-one WPMOY Award runner-ups receive anything?

Yes, thankfully there’s something for everybody.

The other 31 nominees receive a $50,000 donation in their name to expand Character Playbook and up to $50,000 donated to their charity of choice.

Where does the WPMOY Award money come from?

All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.

Nationwide’s Chief Marketing Officer Terrance Williams has released this quote:

“Nationwide is honored to help highlight and support the incredible efforts of this year’s team nominees.

“We hope others are inspired by these 32 men to make positive differences — big and small — in their own communities.

“Congratulations and thank you to each of the nominees for their leadership both on and off the field.”

Who was the first winner of the WPMOY Award?

The very first NFL Man of the Year was given back in 1970 to the quarterback of the Baltimore Colts, Johnny Unitas.

That year was said to be Unitas’ “last great season” when he completed 166-of-221 for 2,213 yards and 14 touchdowns and an appearance in Super Bowl V.

Known as “The Golden Arm,” his popularity was widespread, though his charitable side was kept private, but towards the end of his life he brought media attention to the many permanent physical disabilities suffered by professional football players like he and his peers who played the game without access to modern safety equipment.

Who was last year’s winner of the WPMOY Award?

At the end of the 2017 season, defensive end J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans was made the WPMOY.

Though Watt had an injury-shortened 2017 season, his tireless work helping the Houston community recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey in addition to all of the other volunteers it inspired brought him the WPMOY Award.

How many players have won the award in the past?

Though the award has been around for forty-eight years now, fifty-one players have won it in the past.

Which leads to the next question…

Have multiple players ever won the WPMOY Award in the same year?

Yes, it’s happened on three different occasions:

  • 2016 – Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals and Eli Manning, New York Giants
  • 2006 – LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers and Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
  • 2000 – Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jim Flanigan, Green Bay Packers

Are nominees and active winners recognized on the field of play?

In Week 14 of the 2017 season, each winner who is currently active in the league started wearing a patch on their uniforms representing the award and continue to do so.

Also, the thirty-two nominees of each team are given a decal to wear on their helmet for the remainder of the season.

Who are the current active winners of the WPMOY Award?

The current WPMOY Award winners who still actively play in the NFL are:

  • New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees;
  • Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis;
  • Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald;
  • New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning;
  • Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

Can football fans participate in the WPMOY Award?

Yes, actually – for the last three years, the presenting sponsor of the award, Nationwide, has done something called the Charity Challenge.

For the 2018 award, fans were encouraged to post #WPMOYChallenge and their favorite nominee’s last name on social media between December 6th and January 13th.

The nominee who receives the most hashtag mentions wins an additional $25,000 donation to his charity of choice from Nationwide, and the runner-up receives $10,000 and the third-place winner will receive $5,000.

This year’s Charity Challenge has concluded and the winner has already been decided…

When will the Charity Challenge winner be announced?

The winner will be revealed on January 20th during the AFC Championship game on CBS.

When/where will the winner of the 2018 WPMOY Award be announced?

The 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during something they’re calling NFL Honors, a two-hour prime-time awards special that will air nationally on Feb. 2, the eve of Super Bowl LIII, on CBS.

For those hoping to line the red carpet to see a few of your football heroes, NFL Honors will be held at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA.

Will this year’s nominees for the WPMOY Award be highlighted anywhere?

Something they’re doing new this year is highlighting all 32 team winners, the finalists recognized for their important work, during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LIII.

Each of these men has his own personal take on charity, and it’s interesting to see the various creative ways they’ve decided to use their fame and fortune to give back.

Clearly all of these nominees are award worthy, but only one will take the prize.

Who are the nominees for the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award?

Arizona Cardinals – safety Antoine Bethea

2018 NFL stats line: 122 combined tackles (5 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 6 QB hits, 4 passes defended and a forced fumble.

Charity name:  the Safe Coverage Foundation

Charity goals: to help provide access and resources for students to achieve their dreams of a higher education by making tech equipment and access to college campus visits available.

Atlanta Falcons – defensive tackle Grady Jarrett

2018 NFL stats line: 52 combined tackles (8 for loss), 6.0 sacks, 16 QB hits and 3 forced fumbles.

Charity name: “Big Men Don’t Bully”

Charity goals: speaking to students on the importance of anti-bullying, participating in local campaigns as a spokesperson and taking part in league-wide character initiatives with Character Playbook.

Baltimore Ravens – cornerback Brandon Carr

2018 NFL stats line: 45 combined tackles, 2 interceptions, 11 passes defended and a QB hit.

Charity name:  the Carr Cares Reading Buddy Foundation

Charity goals: the foundation provides mentoring services to struggling early grade school readers by pairing them with high school student mentors who then qualify for book scholarships.

Buffalo Bills – linebacker Lorenzo Alexander

2018 NFL stats line: 74 combined tackles (11 for loss), 6.5 sacks, 10 QB hits, 9 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Various charity names:  Organized: a youth football team meal program, cleat donations, a free STEM Lab and health screening event for Buffalo’s inner-city youth;

Supported: teammate Micah Hyde’s backpack giveaway event, the Play 60 Challenge, the Crucial Catch campaign and United Way Hometown Huddle; Ambassador: for the American Diabetes Association.

Charity goals: support young athletes (see above).

Carolina Panthers – defensive end Julius Peppers

2018 NFL stats line: 22 combined tackles (6 for loss), 5.0 sacks, 11 QB hits, 6 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Charity name (among others):  Peppers partnered with the Foundation for the Carolinas and started the Julius Peppers Hurricane Florence relief fund.

Charity goals: to help hurricane ravaged areas of the Carolinas recover from Hurricane Florence.

Chicago Bears – tight end Trey Burton

2018 NFL stats line: 55 touches, 571 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns.

Charity name:  Bears Care and Becoming a Man.

Charity goals: BC: to raise funds for breast and ovarian cancer research;

BAM: helping young men focus on six core values including Integrity, Accountability, Self-Determination, Positive Anger Expression, Visionary Goal Setting and Respect for Women.

Cincinnati Bengals – defensive end Carlos Dunlap

2018 NFL stats line: 47 combined tackles (8 for loss), 8.0 sacks, 21 QB hits, 8 passes defended and a fumble recovery.

Charity name:  the anti-bullying literacy tour and Sunday Funday.

Charity goals: ABL – to encourage kids to choose kindness, not bullying; SF – a fun and educational back-to-school event.

Cleveland Browns – linebacker Christian Kirksey

2018 NFL stats line: 43 combined tackles (1 for loss), 2 interceptions, 5 passes defended and a fumble recovery.

Charity name:  the Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Charity goals: to help raise food money donations to provide over a million meals for local individuals and families in need.

Dallas Cowboys – quarterback Dak Prescott

2018 NFL stats line: 356 completions for 3,885 yards and 22 touchdowns with 8 interceptions, 67.7 completion percentage.

Charity name:  the Faith, Fight, Finish Foundation

Charity goals: focuses on fighting cancer and offering assistance to those facing life-challenging hardships, all in honor of his mom, Peggy.

Denver Broncos – linebacker Von Miller

2018 NFL stats line: 48 combined tackles (14 for loss), 14.5 sacks, 26 QB hits, an interception, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Charity name:  Von’s Vision

Charity goals: to provide free eye screenings and eye exams valued at $254,149 – based on those testing results, more than $500,000 worth of frames and lenses have been donated at no cost to program participants.

Detroit Lions – quarterback Matthew Stafford

2018 NFL stats line: 3,777 passing yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, 66.1 completion percentage.

Charity name:  Score 7 Charitable Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Charity goals: to support the area youth with initiatives that focus on leading an active and healthy lifestyle, as well as education on proper nutrition.

Green Bay Packers – nose tackle Kenny Clark

2018 NFL stats line: 55 combined tackles (8 for loss) 6.0 sacks, 9 QB hits, 3 passes defended, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Various Charity names:  the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay, Make-A-Wish, the Salvation Army’s Big Kettle campaign, the Green Bay Packers Annual Tailgate Tour and the Packers GiveBack Celebrity Bowling event.

Charity goals: focus on those in need in the Green Bay area.

Houston Texans – linebacker Whitney Mercilus

2018 NFL stats line: 39 combined tackles (5 for loss), 4.0 sacks, 14 QB hits and 2 forced fumbles.

Charity name:  WithMerci

Charity goals: to focus on supporting families of children with disabilities and special needs. Indianapolis Colts – defensive end Jabaal Sheard

2018 NFL stats line: 50 combined tackles (14 for loss), 5.5 sacks, 13 QB hits, 4 passes defended and a fumble recovery.

Charity name:  the Jabaal Sheard Foundation

Charity goals: to provide at-risk youth with outreach programs that given them opportunities in the fields of educational advancement and healthy living.

Jacksonville Jaguars – quarterback Blake Bortles

2018 NFL stats line: 2,718 passing yards and 13 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, 60.3 completion percentage.

Charity name:  the Blake Bortles Foundation

Charity goals: emphasizes giving back to first responders in his hometown and northeast Florida.

Kansas City Chiefs – punter Dustin Colquitt

2018 NFL stats line: 45 punts for 2,021 yards, 44.9 yards per punt, longest of 67 yards.

Charity name: TeamSmile

Charity goals: providing underserved children with $3.5 million in complimentary dental and preventative care procedures.

Los Angeles Chargers –defensive tackle Corey Liuget

2018 NFL stats line: 14 combined tackles (5 for loss), 1.5 sacks, 5 QB hits and 1 fumble recovery, all while playing in just six games.

Charity name (among others):  Community S.T.E.P.S program with the Los Angeles American Heart Association

Charity goals: a hybrid social justice and physical activity campaign aimed at bringing law enforcement and the community together to create a safe space for dialogue and exercise.

Los Angeles Rams – offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth

2018 NFL stats line: 2x All-Pro, 4x Pro-Bowler

Charity name:  the Big Whit 77 Foundation and Whit’s Warriors.

Charity goals: to impact the lives of youth and families in his home state of Louisiana.

Miami Dolphins – wide receiver Kenny Stills

2018 NFL stats line: 37 catches for 553 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Charity name:  RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality)

Charity goals: to help promote ride-alongs and tailgates to unite different groups of people. 

Minnesota Vikings – tight end Kyle Rudolph

2018 NFL stats line: 64 receptions for 634 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Charity name:  the End Zone at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital

Charity goals: a unique space to that provides opportunities for patients and families to take their minds off treatments, featuring an indoor basketball hoop, a lounge, a small kitchen, a digital sports simulator, a sensory walk/area for patients on the autism spectrum and video game consoles.

New England Patriots – safety Devin McCourty

2018 NFL stats line: 82 combined tackles (1 for loss), an interception returned 84-yards for a touchdown, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Charity name:  the “McCourty Twins Tackle Sickle Cell” campaign (with brother Jason)

Charity goals: to help raise money for those affected by sickle cell disease, an inherited disorder that causes a person’s red cells to change shape because of a chemical change in their hemoglobin. 

New Orleans Saints – running back Mark Ingram

2018 NFL stats line: 159 total touches for 815 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns.

Charity name:  The Mark Ingram Foundation and various community activities

Charity goals: to help underserved kids, particularly those with incarcerated parents, as well as making school literacy visits, hospital visits, character development visits, youth football camp visits, corporate partner events and other civic engagements.

New York Giants – safety Michael Thomas

2018 NFL stats line: 58 combined tackles (2 for loss), 1.0 sack, a QB hit, 2 interceptions, 6 passes defended and a forced fumble.

Charity name:  Big Plays for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami

Charity goals: to help raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, who help the underserved youth of the community.

New York Jets offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum

2018 NFL stats line: received a 72.7 overall grade by Pro Football Focus.

Charity name:  the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy

Charity goals: to provide programming for students, professional development for educators, funding for education field trips and college visits, and mentorship connections for students within a vast array of industries. 

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch

2018 NFL stats line: in just six games – 105 touches for 460 yards from scrimmage and 3 touchdowns.

Charity name:  the Fam1st Family Foundation

Charity goals: to embody the intrinsic family values of loyalty and leadership to impact the lives of Oakland’s disenfranchised youth.

Philadelphia Eagles – defensive end Chris Long

2018 NFL stats line: 23 combined tackles (3 for loss), 6.5 sacks, 20 QB hits and 2 forced fumbles.

Charity name:  the Chris Long Foundation

Charity goals: to engage and create programs focused around four main philanthropic causes: clean water, military appreciation, homelessness and youth.

Pittsburgh Steelers – defensive end Cameron Heyward

2018 NFL stats line: 52 combined tackles (10 for loss), 8.0 sacks, 18 QB hits, 3 passes defended, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Charity name:  the Heyward House Foundation

Charity goals: to provide birthday parties for those served by KidsVoice, an agency that represents abused and neglected kids who are in foster or group homes. 

San Francisco 49ers – kicker Robbie Gould

2018 NFL stats line: 33-for-34 field goals made, longest a 53-yarder, 27/29 extra points made.

Charity name:  the Goulden Touch Foundation

Charity goals: to better the community, focusing its giving efforts under four Goulden Rules: Education, Health & Wellness, Medical Research and Social Service.

Seattle Seahawks – linebacker K.J. Wright

2018 NFL stats line: in five games – 23 combined tackles (2 for loss) and 3 passes defended.

Charity name:  Kenya Outreach and Legion of Youth program.

Charity goals: KO – raising money for the construction of a fresh-water well for the primary school in Maasai Mara;

LoY – to empower youth in Washington by providing Seahawks tickets to community organizations that serve kids throughout the Northwest.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – defensive tackle Gerald McCoy

2018 NFL stats line: 28 combined tackles (6 for loss), 6.0 sacks, 21 QB hits and a pass defended.

Charity name:  the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Board

Charity goals: a player-led program that aims to create real change in the Tampa Bay community.

Tennessee Titans – defensive tackle Jurrell Casey

2018 NFL stats line: 62 combined tackles (11 for loss), 7.0 sacks, 11 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Charity names:  The Casey Fund (TCF) and Rally Foundation’s Rally

Charity goals: TCF – to address the needs of at-risk youth and the formerly incarcerated;

RFR – a fundraiser for childhood cancer research. 

Washington Redskins – tight end Vernon Davis

2018 NFL stats line: 25 receptions for 367 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Charity name:  the Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts

Charity goals: to promote art education and art appreciation among youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Mike Lukas

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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager.
Nationality: American
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