Finalists named for Walter Payton Man of Year Award

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  • By Around The NFL staff NFL.com
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Houston Texans linebacker J.J. Watt, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson were named finalists Sunday for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide.

"Greg, Benjamin and J.J. have changed countless lives with their generosity and commitment to helping others," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "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."

Considered one of the league's most prestigious honors, the Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field.

Last month, the NFL announced the 32 nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide. Three of the nominees will be selected as finalists for the national award, renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.

The winner will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour prime-time awards special to air nationally on Feb. 3, the eve of Super Bowl LII, at 9 p.m. (ET and PT) on NBC. NFL Honors will take place at the Cyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

$500,000 dollars will be donated in the name of the 2017 winner. $250,000 will be donated to the winner's charity of choice and $250,000 will be 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. All 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 courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Watt solidified his importance to the city of Houston by being an unwavering fixture of hope. While watching the events unfold from a hotel room in Dallas, J.J. posted a video on social media announcing a fundraising campaign with a very reasonable goal of $200,000, to which he matched the first $100,000. In 19 days, he raised more than $37 million. J.J. has dedicated himself to finding organizations that will apply the funds in the way he has promised the donors and victims of Harvey. J.J. will soon unfold a plan with strategic organizations, making good on his promise to ensure that every dollar goes directly to the people of Houston and its surrounding areas that are in need.

In 2009, after watching his mother tackle and survive breast cancer, Olsen founded Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation. The Foundation's Receiving Hope program focuses on cancer research and education programming.

In early 2013, Olsen and his wife Kara founded the HEARTest Yard Fund after a routine examination of their unborn son, T.J., revealed the infant had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a congenital defect marked by an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta. The HEARTest Yard Fund, an umbrella program under Olsen's Receptions for Research Foundation, is a family service program administered in conjunction with Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte. The cutting-edge program provides families of babies affected by congenital heart disease with services including in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, all at no cost to the families or hospital. In November 2017, the HEARTest Yard's cutting-edge programming expanded when Greg and Kara announced the initiative's new cardiac neurodevelopmental program -- the first of its kind in the region. Since 2009, Receptions for Research has distributed over $3.5 million in support.

Benjamin assists countless people through his charitable arm, the One More Foundation. One More's mission is to bless individuals wherever they are, whether supporting existing charities or initiating programs of its own. Most recently, One More partnered with the International Justice Mission (IJM). In partnership with IJM, 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 joined the global fight to end the scourge of sex trafficking. This effort was highlighted in April during a three-day trip to Lebanon, where Benjamin witnessed firsthand the Middle East's refugee crisis. Additionally, he and his wife, Kirsten, traveled to the Dominican Republic in June to begin formulating plans that combat sex trafficking.

For more information on the nominees and the award, visit NFL.com/manoftheyear.

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