Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long was named the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide at NFL Honors on Saturday evening.
"I am honored to be named the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and to join the long line of men who have received this prestigious honor," Long said in a statement. "While I am officially accepting this award, we would not be able to accomplish our goals without the support and participation of countless other individuals. I am humbled by the support we have received from my peers who have donated to our various matching-campaigns, the commitment and perseverance displayed by the veterans who have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with me each year, and the generosity of our fans who have made vital contributions to our foundation over the years.
"I am incredibly thankful that football has provided me with a platform to give back and I am proud that so many of my colleagues have decided to use this stage to create positive and impactful change in our local communities and around the world."
Long has extensive experience in charity and community service. The defensive end established the Chris Long Foundation in 2015 to fulfill three main philanthropic causes: clean water, military appreciation and youth education.
Long's main initiative is Waterboys, a program that has united professional athletes and sports fans to raise funds and awareness to provide clean drinking water to East African communities in need. By February 2018, Long's goal of building 32 clean water wells, one for every NFL team, was met. Long has now set a goal of providing clean water to one million people.
To date, Waterboys has raised more than $3 million and has funded 55 wells that will provide water to 211,000 people.
In addition to the Waterboys initiative, Long has committed many of his game checks over the past two seasons to programs that fund scholarships in his home town of Charlottesville, Va., and that promote educational equity in the cities in which he's played (St. Louis, Boston, Philadelphia). In total, Long's efforts over the last two years have yielded $2.25 million in donations to educational equity programs.
Long's "First Quiarter for Literacy" program has donated 75,000 new books to children in under-served neighborhoods in 2018 alone.
As a result of Long earning Man of the Year honors, the Chris Long Foundation will receive a $250,000 donation and an additional $250,000 will be donated to United Way in Long's name to expand Character Playbook across the country.
Considered one of the league's most prestigious honors, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. First established in 1970, the national award was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of FameChicago Bears running back Walter Payton.