Walter Payton Award: Greg Olsen, Benjamin Watson, J.J. Watt named finalists

By The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 21, 2018 at 7:24 PM
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Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt were selected as the three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

The winner will be revealed Feb. 3 at NFL Honors, the night before Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.

"Greg, Benjamin and J.J. have changed countless lives with their generosity and commitment to helping others," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement released by the NFL on Sunday. "As remarkable leaders on and off the field, they personify the character of the late Walter Payton. We commend them for using their platforms to leave a positive impact on communities across the country."

The winner will have $500,000 donated in his name, $250,000 donated to the winner's charity of choice and $250,000 donated in his name to expand Character Playbook across the country.

The two other finalists will each receive a $100,000 donation to their charity of choice and a $100,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook.

The other 29 nominees will receive a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice and an additional $50,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook. All donations are from the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.

In 2009, Olsen founded Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation, after watching his mother survive breast cancer. The Foundation's Receiving Hope program focuses on cancer research and education programming. Then, in 2013, Olsen and his wife Kara founded the HEARTest Yard Fund after a routine examination of their unborn son, T.J., revealed Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a congenital defect marked by an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta.

"I was fortunate enough to have played with Walter Payton for several years," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in the NFL release. "And Greg shares many of the same qualities that made Walter so special. Greg's commitment as a husband, father and community servant reflects Walter's loving spirit. And the tenacity in which he plays is indicative of Payton's toughness on the field. I can think of no other player who is as deserving as Greg."

Watson assists people through his One More Foundation. It recently partnered with the International Justice Mission, the world's largest international anti-slavery organization working to combat human trafficking, modern day slavery and other forms of violence against the poor.

Watson also annually hosts the Big BENefit, an event that offers 25 underserved families an opportunity to provide holiday gifts for their children. Each parent is brought to a local Walmart and is surprised with dinner and a $300 gift card to shop with their favorite Raven.

"You don't have to spend much time with Benjamin to understand his passion for serving others," Ravens owner Steve Biscotti said in the release. "He is an exceptional person who has a unique ability to lead, educate and inspire. For him to be honored with this award is outstanding. He never looks for recognition, but he certainly deserves it."

Watt used social media to help raise more than $37 million for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Houston area last year.

"We have long been proud and appreciative of J.J.'s passion and authentic care for others as he has consistently given back to the community, created memories for all ages and positively impacted lives around the world," Texans owner Bob McNair said in the release. "J.J. is one of the most selfless, giving and inspiring young men in the NFL and we are proud he is a Houston Texan. During one of Houston's worst disasters, J.J. was our shining light after raising more than $37 million for victims affected by Hurricane Harvey. We congratulate him on being named a finalist for this year's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award."

Last year's award was shared by Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

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