Kansas City Chiefs guard Brian Waters was named the 2009 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year on Sunday.
The announcement was made on-field at Sun Life Stadium live on CBS before kickoff of Super Bowl XLIV. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Payton's family presented Waters with the award, the only league recognition that acknowledges a player's off-the-field community service, as well as his playing excellence.
Waters, a four-time Pro Bowler, is a tenacious blocker on the field and a relentless role model in the community. A 10-year NFL veteran, Waters has helped three different Chiefs runners accumulate six 1,000-yard seasons. But the work he has done through The Brian Waters 54 Foundation is just as impressive. His heart and passion have led him to impact tens of thousands of children and families in Texas and the greater Kansas City area. To date, his foundation has awarded 82 college scholarships to low-income students.
Thousands of children have also benefited from his back-to-school program that provides backpacks full of school supplies, as well as haircuts, uniforms, shoes, immunizations and dental care. Whether it's working with the Special Olympics, sponsoring an after-school program at a local YMCA, chairing the ChiefsThanksgiving food drive or building a home for Habitat for Humanity, Waters' broad shoulders have upended many defensive linemen and uplifted countless lives.
"I am so appreciative of my wife, family, the National Football League, the Kansas City Chiefs and my teammates for their support," noted Waters. "Most of all I am thankful to the many organizations and families that partner with the 54 Foundation. Their generosity and kindness have been a blessing to us. It is an honor to be considered for, and to win this illustrious award. I hope that I can be an encouragement to others to get involved and impact their own communities."
Waters joins an esteemed list of winners of the annual award, including 17 Pro Football Hall of Famers. Recent winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award include Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals (2008), Jason Taylor of the Washington Redskins (2007) and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers, co-winners in 2006. A complete list of winners is below.
This year, Waters was among three finalists for the award, including Washington Redskins LB London Fletcher and Cleveland Browns WR Mike Furrey. Finalists were chosen by a blue-ribbon panel from the 32 team nominees for the award, all of whom receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice.
The three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name. The selection panel is comprised of Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, Giants great and Executive Director of the NFL Alumni Association George Martin, 2008 winner Warner, and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive the Gladiator statue, an original art creation by noted sculptor Daniel Schwartz. In addition, the player's favorite charity will receive an additional $20,000 donation in his name.