|Walter Payton's charitable legacy lives on with the NFL Man of the Year Award.|
Walter Payton, affectionately known as "Sweetness," is considered one of the most prolific running backs in the history of American football. Raised in Columbia, Miss., Payton starred at Jackson State University of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. From 1971-74, he rushed for 3,563 yards and scored 66 total touchdowns.
Selected with the 4th overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft, Payton spent his entire professional career with the NFL's Chicago Bears. Throughout his illustrious 13-year career, Payton was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and set several NFL records, including career rushing yards, touchdowns, attempts and 100 yard rushing games. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
In February 1999, Payton revealed that he was suffering from a rare liver disease known as primary sclerosing cholangitis. Throughout his fight Payton remained valiant and encouraged Americans to become organ donors; bringing national attention to the cause. Following a courageous battle, Payton died on Nov. 1, 1999 at the age of 45.
|The 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Finalists, Carolina Panthers' Thomas Davis, Arizona Cardinals' Jay Feely and Chicago Bears' Charles Tillman, at Super Bowl XLVIII. (Associated Press)|
Shortly after Payton's death, to honor his legacy as both a phenomenal player and humanitarian, the NFL Man of the Year Award was renamed the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Presented annually since 1970, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is granted to the player who demonstrates outstanding contributions to society off-the-field while handling himself in an exemplary fashion in uniform. The award's panel of judges includes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Muñoz, Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King and the previous year's recipient.
Walter Payton's charitable legacy endures today through the work of the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation. The organization is dedicated to the emotional healing of neglected, abused and underprivileged children by providing tools and opportunities to build self-esteem and encouragement.
To learn more about the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation please visit http://www.payton34.com/.
2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year: Charles Tillman
Cornerback Charles Tillman has distinguished himself as one of the NFL's top defensive backs during his outstanding 11-year career with the Chicago Bears. Tillman has routinely been recognized for both his outstanding play and charitable efforts, displaying the same passion off the field as he does on game day.
Since entering the NFL in 2003, he is tied for fifth in interceptions, fifth in interception return yards, tied for second in interception return touchdowns, second in forced fumbles, fifth in pass break ups, and is the only player during that time with 30+ interceptions and 30+ forced fumbles. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Tillman ranks third in Bears franchise history with 36 interceptions, and is the franchise leader in defensive return touchdowns, interception return touchdowns and interception return yards.
|Charles Tillman is introduced as the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year prior to Super Bowl XLVIII. (Associated Press)|
Tillman's contributions off of the field are equally as impressive as his work on it. A finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2011 and the winner of the NFL Salute to Service Award in 2012, Tillman continues to have an impact on millions of people in the Chicago area through his Cornerstone Foundation and its many programs. Charles' Locker provides pediatric hospital patients with access to iPads, laptops, gaming systems and other kinds of entertainment to help pass the time during their hospital stays and annually reaches more than 370,000 children. The Tiana Fund has distributed more than $1 million to over 300 families who have been identified by local organizations as at-risk or in-need. The support is provided to families and individuals to strengthen their ability to care for themselves, enhance their stability and security, and improve their quality of life.
Tillman and his wife, Jackie, also contribute their time and resources to local, national and international organizations outside of the Cornerstone Foundation. The Tillmans have helped build a school in Cambodia, sponsored children through the Urban Promise program in Camden, New Jersey, and have purchased and donated over 700 tickets to Bears home games since 2008 through the Bears Home Team Hand-Off program. Tillman is also an avid supporter of our military, and has participated in a USO tour to Iraq, volunteered with the USO of Illinois on Thanksgiving to serve meals to local troops, and provided soldiers with tickets to games at Soldier Field during the 2013 season.
"I'm grateful to be the recipient of such a prestigious award," said Tillman. "Walter Payton's legacy continues to be a beacon of service and giving, and I'm just trying to do my small part. I don't think any of the finalists do what they do to get recognition, but we do it because we are passionate about helping others"