NFL players did a lot to positively impact their communities this year, none more than the finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. While they won’t be competing on the field Sunday, it is their work off the field that is impressive.
Tight end Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers won the award in 2016 and is back as a finalist. He founded Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation in 2009, and it continues to give everyone a second chance like his mother who survived breast cancer. The foundation’s Receiving Hope program provides hospitals, doctors, and scholars the resources to better the lives of those affected by cancer. After seeing the challenges first hand with their son T.J., Olsen and his wife, Kara, started the HEARTest Yard initiative -- a cutting-edge program that supports families of children born with congenital heart disease treated at Levine Children’s Hospital in North Carolina.
In addition to the foundation, Olsen is a spokesperson for the NFL’s Crucial Catch program, participates in the team’s Make-A-Wish granting program, and assists Beds for Kids, a non-profit organization that provides beds and furniture to children and families in Charlotte.
Charity is in this Arizona Cardinals wide receiver’s roots. Larry Fitzgerald’s grandparents started a non-profit organization to provide vision care to kids who didn’t have access, and his mother took him along when she did charitable work to prevent AIDS, provide outreach and education to prevent cancer, and to support women surviving breast cancer.
Today, Fitzgerald continues that legacy. When Fitzgerald isn’t busy with his extensive volunteer work, he provides vision care to disadvantaged youth and also promotes reading and technology access through his First Down Fund. The First Down Fund also makes donations to a number of charities across the United States, and more than 300 charities were nominated by his fans to receive funding.
Contributing to the community has been one of the tremendous joys of my life. Thankful for the opportunities I've had to help others. pic.twitter.com/piVZUJt05w— Larry Fitzgerald (@LarryFitzgerald) January 23, 2017
Fitzgerald also makes repeated trips to visit U.S. troops in the Middle East, as well as travelling to Africa and Asia with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to help fit children with hearing aids. With over two million followers on social media, Fitzgerald provides additional visibility to any charity he teams up with.
Eli Manning won’t be leading a drive down the field this year either, but he spends much of his time serving as the chair for New York’s March for Babies and has raised over $25 million in the past 7 years in support of March of Dimes.
Manning makes frequent visits to the Children’s Cancer Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center, and started “Eli’s Challenge”. Manning is donating $100,000 to match the donations of many scouts, youth sports teams, and schools to Kids Tackle Cancer.
He also gives his time and money to the American Red Cross, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and a myriad of other organizations.
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced on February 4 in Houston, at NFL Honors, a two-hour awards special airing 8-10 p.m. (ET and PT) on FOX. Watch the video to see what made these three players finalists for the award.