Beyond his sheer physical talent, Walter Payton was also recognized throughout his amazing life for his genuine kindness and unmatched versatility. Those attributes, along with a sincere desire to make the world a better place, are at the heart of the award named in his honor. They also provide a strikingly accurate window into the character and personality of Lorenzo Alexander, starting linebacker, Pro Bowler and five-time Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. This year, like every year, Lorenzo has gone above and beyond to inspire change and make a positive impact for the community. He has continued to host events and outreach campaigns through his ACES Foundation, providing resources and support for at-risk youth in the communities of Buffalo, Oakland and Washington, D.C. He's been an integral part of the Bills Community Relations outreach efforts for initiatives such as the Play 60 Challenge, Hometown Huddle, Crucial Catch, NFL Flag, Salute to Service, Touchdown for Teachers and more. There truly is no limit to Lorenzo's desire to improve lives. This year alone, Lorenzo was awarded more Inspire Change Player Matching Grants through the NFL Foundation than anyone else in the league. He's also continued his role as a mentor for a high school football team in the Buffalo Public School system, holding life skills workshops, providing school supplies and football equipment, and even giving rides from practice when needed. He set up a college tour for Buffalo students to check out university campuses in Washington, D.C. and hosted groups of at-risk youth throughout Bills training camp, preseason and regular season for V.I.P tours and tickets to games.
Much like "Sweetness," Lorenzo has spent his life as a "one-man gang" – constantly finding new ways to better himself as a person and improve the lives of those around him. For his entire career, Alexander has taken his role as a leader and resource for the community far beyond the call of duty. As mentioned above, he has made it a personal mission to be directly involved with all Community Relations initiatives with all of the teams he's played for – from the Play 60 Challenge to the Inspire Change initiative and beyond. But his impact stretches far past team-originated initiatives. Through his ACES Foundation, he invested time and resources where need is most heavily felt and implemented collaborative programs to help at-risk youth realize their value and potential. The organization fundraises for educational resources, holds events and football camps to raise awareness and provide positive reinforcement, and even holds accountability workshops. At these inspiring events, leaders from a diverse range of fields interface directly with young people to teach lessons about mental health and positive thinking, peer pressure, sports psychology, money management and more. He has partnered with the American Diabetes Association since 2010 and the National Alliance of African American Athletes since 2001. In Oakland, he's hosted a youth skills camp since 2008, sponsored a meal program since 2018, provided multiple community grants for new entrepreneurs and local initiatives, and sponsored the SPAAT weekly student athlete award. In Washington, D.C., he established a college scholarship in partnership with the Beta Omega Social Services organization, created internships for students, and set up the Beyond Measure Mentorship program. "Zo" is constantly looking for new ways to improve the community. He has served dinner to breast cancer survivors, hosted Lunch and Learn programs at schools, and led the Bills in a "Community Outreach Tuesday" (of his own creation) in which over 20 players visited four community centers in one afternoon as part of the social justice initiative. Also, he took on a role as a mentor for a high school football team in the Buffalo Public School system. He's adopted their families for the holiday season in the past, taken them back-to-school shopping, visited their practices, and even taken some of the team on an outing to the popular "Hamilton" musical.
The phrase "giving back" does not merely refer to a side-project for Lorenzo, it's in his DNA – what drives him each and every day. His wife Manjanique often jokes that on their first date she was "grilled" by Lorenzo about how she would help him make a difference in the community. A few more dates and a wedding later, the idea of their ACES Foundation was created on a napkin flying home from their honeymoon. The Alexander family has become a staple in the Buffalo community with Manjanique and their four children often joining Lorenzo at community events. To many, Walter Payton represented the hard-working, blue collar community Chicago during his storied career with the Bears. Payton's nickname "Sweetness" represented his on-field success and his off-field impact. The same can certainly be said of Lorenzo, who's career is a case study in hard work, versatility and self-sacrifice. He went from an undrafted free agent in 2005 to become a Pro Bowl-caliber player, earning league-wide respect and being designated as a team captain in both Washington and with the Bills. He's changed positions, accepted new challenges, and even transformed his body (losing almost 80 pounds to move from the defensive line to linebacker!) all for the betterment of the team. His teammates look to him as a guide and resource – not just on how to be a professional, but how to be a good human being. As you can see, Lorenzo is similar to Walter Payton in his versatility both on and off the field. He is constantly looking for new ways to contribute to his team and community. All in all, Lorenzo is a hands-on, grassroots supporter of the community and is full of sincere kindness. He has made a tangible impact on this community – and several others – that will live on for decades to come.
Those who know Lorenzo know that he is incredibly genuine in the way he serves others. The way he gives back makes a sincere impact on the individuals he meets. He is respected across all parts of the building at One Bills Drive, so much so that Buffalo Bills Owner Terry Pegula donned custom sneakers decorated to represent Lorenzo's ACES Foundation during the 2017 My Cause My Cleats game day celebration. Lorenzo's wife, Manjanique summarizes him best – "Anyone can be like Zo! You just have to be dedicated, work hard, think of others before yourself, and be dedicated to bettering your community and helping others. Lorenzo has helped me to be a better person by inspiring me to think of others first." For his leadership in the locker room and efforts in the community his teammates and coaches have voted for Alexander to be the Buffalo Bills Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for the third consecutive season.