With a running list of sensational seasons and an ever-present grin, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been one of the most successful players in the NFL since his 2012 debut and one of the faces of the league.
He's now been recognized with the league's most prestigious accolade.
Wilson was named the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year at NFL Honors, which aired Saturday on CBS.
"Dad, I know one your favorite athletes of all-time was Walter Payton. The player he was, but more importantly the man he was, the leader, the giver, the person. Man, dad, I wish you were here for this award," Wilson said upon the presentation of the award by 2019 winner Calais Campbell, crafting his acceptance speech as a message to his father, who passed away in 2010. "This moment. Dad, I can remember you telling me in the car one day, 'Son, love changes things.' Well, dad, you were right. I wish you were here to tell the world that in the toughest of times. 2020 was the most difficult times in history.
"To America, to the world, love is patient, love is kind, love changes things. The great Walter Payton once said, 'We are stronger together than we are alone.' Dad, I think Walter was right. To the young boy or girl who has a dream, who wants to make a difference. Remember this one thing, love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always persevere. Love changes things. Thank you."
Wilson is the first quarterback to be recognized as NFL Man of the Year since the New York Giants' Eli Manning in 2016 and the first Seahawks player since Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent in 1988. Largent and Wilson are Seattle's two recipients for the award, which was first awarded in 1970 to icon Johnny Unitas.
The last award of the evening at NFL Honors is now traditionally the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which is presented to a player in recognition of his "outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on it." Each nominee of the 32 nominees received a $40,000 donation in their name to their chosen charity, while Wilson will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of his choice.
During a 2020 season played out amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson directed efforts toward feeding children, families and the elderly. Wilson and wife Ciara donated $1 million to Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the country. He also partnered with Wheels Up to create Meals up in an effort to combat food insecurity. With his Why Not You Foundation, Wilson joined with Door Dash, Rockefeller Foundation and United Way Worldwide to enlarge Ride United to deliver supplies and food to 175 communities across the country.
Wilson's endeavors in an unprecedented year also included his pleas to end systemic racism, which included "Black Lives Matter, Love Russell & Ciara" messages on Out of Home billboards and digital message boards throughout the United States. He also partnered with the I AM A VOTER campaign to encourage voter registration for the 2020 election.
Previously nominated for the award in 2014, Wilson's charitable efforts are nothing new.
Since his rookie campaign, Wilson's visited Seattle Children's Hospital every Tuesday during the season.
There's plenty more that Wilson has accomplished in his charitable endeavors throughout his career and no doubt plenty more ahead.
One of the best of the best on the field season after season, Wilson's also been one of the NFL's best off the field and he's now been recognized for it as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.