Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt was named the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Presented by Nationwide, the NFL announced today. Considered the league's most prestigious honor, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes a player for his excellence on and off the field.
As Watt watched Hurricane Harvey hit Houston from a hotel room in Dallas, he posted a video on social media announcing a campaign with a reasonable goal of raising $200,000, to which he matched the first $100,000. After 19 days, he had raised more than $37 million. Watt has dedicated himself to finding organizations that will use the funds in the way he has promised the donors and victims of Harvey. He recently announced a plan with strategic partners, to ensure that every dollar goes directly to the people of Houston and its surrounding areas that are in need.
Watt's dedication to charitable service began when he started the Justin J. Watt Foundation in Wisconsin in 2010 to help underserved kids. The foundation has provided more than $3.4 million to middle schools and organizations that need funding for after-school athletic programs or that have no after-school athletics for 6th – 8th grade children.
In his 7th NFL season, Watt has been named to the Pro Bowl four times and is a four-time first-team All-Pro. He led the league in sacks in 2012 and 2015, and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in those years and in 2014 as well. Watt has played in 88 games for the Texans and recorded a total of 394 tackles and 76 sacks.
Watt will receive $500,000, half of which will go to a charity of his choice and half of which will support the expansion of Character Playbook across the country. Character Playbook is the NFL and United Way's digital education program that teaches middle school students how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships.
This year’s runners-up, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson will each receive a $100,000 donation to their charity and a $100,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook.
The other 29 nominees received a $50,000 donation to their charity and an additional $50,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.