Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been selected as the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year presented by Nationwide. The league's most prestigious honor, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
The award was first established in 1970 and renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.
Baltimore Ravens DE Calais Campbell, the 2019 recipient, presented the award to Wilson prior to Super Bowl LV in a ceremony honoring all 32 nominees’ contributions to the game and their communities.
"Russell Wilson has always prioritized serving his community, but this year, he met the challenge and more when it was needed most," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "He has shown continued excellence on the field for nine seasons, but the work he has done to help youth and fight food insecurity through his Why Not You Foundation bolsters his lasting legacy. Russell is extremely deserving of this award and I know he will use this as an additional springboard to continue to positively impact others."
This was the second time Wilson was nominated by the Seahawks for the award, the first time in 2014. Recently, Wilson received the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation Award of Excellence for his efforts to fund cancer research.
Wilson led the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowl appearances in 2013 and 2014, including the franchise's only title in 2013. He is an eight-time Pro Bowler, has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week a franchise-record 11 times, and holds 26 major franchise records. He has been voted team captain in eight consecutive seasons and has won the team's Steve Largent Award, given to the player that best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of being a Seahawk, three times (2012, 2018, 2019).
Wilson started his Why Not You Foundation in 2014. The nonprofit is dedicated to education, children's health and fighting poverty, empowering today's youth to lead with a "why not you" attitude. He has also participated in numerous community projects over the years with Seattle Children's Hospital, Friends of the Children, and created the Why Not You Scholars program.
Wilson continues to work on his community projects and newer initiatives but has focused his efforts on food insecurity during the ongoing pandemic. He and his wife Ciara pledged a personal donation of 1 million meals to Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States.
His foundation partnered with Wheels Up in March to launch the Meals Up initiative to address the growing levels of food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis. The ongoing effort has already provided more than 60 million meals for Feeding America.
Wilson's foundation also partnered with Ride United Last Mile delivery program to bring food and supplies to vulnerable populations in 175 U.S. communities. Due in large part to Wilson's involvement and innovation, the Seattle area will soon become the region that distributes the highest number of food boxes.
In October, Wilson and Ciara also launched the first Why Not You Academy in Seattle. Scheduled to open in Fall 2021, the entirely new charter school will be a tuition-free public school, offering a unique, personalized approach and high-quality education option for the low-income and racially segregated neighborhoods in the Seattle area.
As the isolation caused by the pandemic exposed the inequities and injustices people of color experience in our country at levels never seen before, Wilson used his platform to encourage change. He brought awareness to racial injustices and bought billboards and digital message boards in communities across the country reading, "Black Lives Matter, Love Russell & Ciara."
Wilson also used his platform this season to focus on the importance of voting, especially among young people and communities of color. He and Ciara partnered with the campaign I am a voter. to encourage NFL fans to register to vote. He was instrumental in bringing the campaign to NFL players, coaches, and staff across the league and led 100% participation by the Seahawks organization.
Wilson will receive a donation of $250,000 for the charity of his choice. The other 31 nominees will receive a donation of $40,000 in their name to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Learn more about all 32 team nominees.