Clay Matthews, quiet off-field leader, a worthy Man of Year nom

In September, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews became the franchise's all-time sack leader. But, it is Matthews' leadership and off the field accolades that are garnering more attention.

Matthews, the Packers' nominee for the league's prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, realized early on in his career the gravity of the NFL platform.

"Initially I teamed up with CureDuchenne -- which I teamed up with in 2010. I didn't have a loved one that was stricken by the disease, but I did it just because I was just going to lend a voice to it and hopefully bring some recognition," Matthews told "But, to the extent that we brought awareness is remarkable and it's something that's become even closer to my heart because I've seen these parents who have boys stricken with this disease, as well as the kids themselves.

"Now having kids of my own, it's very real and we have an opportunity to make a change. That's one of the organizations I'm closely involved with. Any time I can give back or help make a change, I really jump on it. I think more so than anything it's the platform that we've been given and being able to reflect on all that we've been blessed with."

During Week 13 of the regular season, NFL players have the opportunity to design custom-made cleats in support of player-selected causes and charities as part of the My Cause, My Cleats campaign. In 2016 and 2017, Matthews chose to honor CureDuchenne -- a foundation that supports young men and boys who are affected by a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

In addition to CureDuchenne, Matthews has helped support philanthropic work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Jimmy V Foundation, Hugs from Holly, Make-A-Wish Foundation and many more.

Matthews, a first-time nominee, will don a special helmet decal for the rest of the 2017 season. The six-time Pro Bowler is humbled by the honor.

"It means a great deal obviously," Matthews said. "I didn't lobby or campaign for this honor but to be among so men who make such a difference in the community -- reading some of their bios about how they've been involved with change in all walks of life is truly humbling. It makes me want to do more. Whoever wins this honor is truly deserving of it. Hopefully, it continues to promote awareness to ongoing efforts and using your platform to create change in your community."

On the field, the Packers were dealt plenty of adversity this season. With star quarterback Aaron Rodgers lost for most of the season after breaking his collarbone in Week, Matthews said the Packers had to get creative and find ways to win.

"I'd say a majority of those distractions come from the outside so I don't think there was any speech or anything that any one of us had to make to keep the team focused on the task at hand," Matthews said. "The reality is, Aaron [Rodgers] is one of the best players in the league, arguably the best quarterback but he's just one player and we needed to persevere throughout that.

"Obviously, the quarterback position is such an instrumental part in success of your team that we dropped a few games but were able to squeak out some other victories. ... I think the team, as a whole, really hunkered down and tried to keep the positive energy inside and in house. I think we did a pretty good job of weathering the storm."

Despite persevering sans Rodgers this season, the Packers playoff hopes were dashed after Week 15. The Packers' 2017 is nearing a close but Matthews' philanthropic endeavors will not.

This winter, Matthews and his wife plan to donate $10,000-worth of winter coats to a school in need.

To further celebrate the 32 team nominees, Nationwide, the presenting sponsor of the award, will execute the third annual Charity Challenge. Fans are encouraged to post #WPMOYChallenge and their favorite nominee's last name on social media through Sunday, January 7. The nominee who receives the most hashtag mentions will win an additional $25,000 donation to his charity of choice from Nationwide, the runner-up will receive $10,000 and the third-place winner will receive $5,000.

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