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The NFL announced that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson are the three finalists for the 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide.
The winner will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime special airing nationally on the night before Super Bowl 50, Feb. 6, from 9-11 p.m. ET on CBS.
Each of the NFL’s 32 clubs nominates one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community.
The winner will receive a $55,000 donation in his name to a charity of his choice and the two runners-up will receive an $11,000 donation. The other 29 team nominees received a $5,000 donation. Donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
A panel of judges comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, Connie Payton, football greats Anthony Muñoz and LaDainian Tomlinson and the 2014 award recipient, Carolina Panthers LB Thomas Davis, selected this year’s finalists.
The impact that the three finalists have had on their communities is outlined below. To read their full nominations and to learn more about all 32 team nominees, visit nfl.com/manoftheyear.
While Anquan Boldin has succeeded on the field, he has never lost sight of the importance of giving back to the community. Boldin formed the Anquan Boldin Foundation in 2004 to expand the educational and life opportunities of underprivileged youth. In early 2015, he and his wife Dionne announced a $1 million pledge to increase the Foundation’s impact.
The Foundation offers programs throughout the year, including a summer enrichment program, Thanksgiving food drives offering 300 meals annually and holiday shopping sprees. In the fall of 2015, the Foundation awarded $10,000 academic scholarships to five students entering college and since its inception, has awarded 13 four-year scholarships through the “Q81” Foundation Scholarship Fund.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time Offensive Player of the Week Award winner and Super Bowl champion, Boldin is one of the NFL’s most dynamic receivers. In his first two seasons with the 49ers, he led the team in total receptions (168) and receiving yards (2,241). In 2015, Boldin became the first player in NFL history to have 50-or-more catches with at least 600 yards in his first 13 seasons.
A father of three daughters, Eli Manning is a fervent champion for causes involving children. He has served as the Chair of the New York March for Babies for the past seven years, helping to raise more than $25 million. Manning spearheads “Tackle Kids’ Cancer,” an initiative with Hackensack University Medical Center. Before launching a media campaign to raise awareness of his cause, Manning spent time with patients and doctors at the hospital’s pediatric cancer center, and learned more about what the greatest needs are in cancer research.
Dismayed that there was only one children’s hospital in Mississippi, Manning and his wife founded the Eli and Abby Manning Children’s Clinics in 2007, kicking off a five-year campaign that raised close to $3 million. They also established the University of Mississippi Medical Center Manning Family Fund, which received close to $1.5 million in its first year.
A two-time Super Bowl MVP and former No. 1 overall pick, Manning has spent his entire 12-year NFL career as the Giants quarterback. He holds several team records, including passing touchdowns, pass completions and passing yards. Manning has earned a reputation for delivering in the clutch; since 2006-2015, he is tied for first in the league in initiating fourth-quarter comebacks.
Faith-based and family-oriented, Benjamin Watson has become a fixture in his community. His altruism touches on a number of issues, impacting those in the New Orleans area as well as throughout the country. In 2008, he and his wife Kirsten founded the Watson One More Foundation, which supports existing charities and has programs of its own.
Watson is notable for combatting domestic violence and was one of the first NFL players to join the No More campaign. His foundation hosts the annual “Big BENefit,” an event where 25 families from a local domestic violence shelter are treated to a shopping spree to buy gifts for their children and necessary household items. Watson was named one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of the Year in 2014.
With a combination of athleticism, strength and speed, Watson has given the Saints offense a huge boost since joining the team in 2013. In 2015, Watson recorded personal bests in receptions (74) and yards (825) with six touchdowns.
Of the 47 previous Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Winners, 24 are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame inductees are indicated with asterisks:
|2014||Thomas Davis||Carolina Panthers|
|2013||Charles Tillman||Chicago Bears|
|2012||Jason Witten||Dallas Cowboys|
|2011||Matt Birk||Baltimore Ravens|
|2010||Madieu Williams||Minnesota Vikings|
|2009||Brian Waters||Kansas City Chiefs|
|2008||Kurt Warner||Arizona Cardinals|
|2007||Jason Taylor||Miami Dolphins|
|2006||LaDainian Tomlinson||San Diego Chargers|
|Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints|
|2005||Peyton Manning||Indianapolis Colts|
|2004||Warrick Dunn||Atlanta Falcons|
|2003||Will Shields*||Kansas City Chiefs|
|2002||Troy Vincent||Philadelphia Eagles|
|2001||Jerome Bettis*||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|2000||Derrick Brooks*||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Jim Flanigan||Green Bay Packers|
|1999||Cris Carter*||Minnesota Vikings|
|1998||Dan Marino*||Miami Dolphins|
|1997||Troy Aikman*||Dallas Cowboys|
|1996||Darrell Green*||Washington Redskins|
|1995||Boomer Esiason||New York Jets|
|1994||Junior Seau*||San Diego Chargers|
|1993||Derrick Thomas*||Kansas City Chiefs|
|1992||John Elway*||Denver Broncos|
|1991||Anthony Muñoz*||Cincinnati Bengals|
|1990||Mike Singletary*||Chicago Bears|
|1989||Warren Moon*||Houston Oilers|
|1988||Steven Largent*||Seattle Seahawks|
|1987||Dave Duerson||Chicago Bears|
|1986||Reggie Williams||Cincinnati Bengals|
|1985||Dwight Stephenson*||Miami Dolphins|
|1984||Marty Lyons||New York Jets|
|1983||Rolf Benirschke||San Diego Chargers|
|1982||Joe Theismann||Washington Redskins|
|1981||Lynn Swann*||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|1980||Harold Carmichael||Philadelphia Eagles|
|1979||Joe Greene*||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|1978||Roger Staubach*||Dallas Cowboys|
|1977||Walter Payton*||Chicago Bears|
|1976||Franco Harris*||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|1975||Ken Anderson||Cincinnati Bengals|
|1974||George Blanda*||Oakland Raiders|
|1973||Len Dawson*||Kansas City Chiefs|
|1972||Willie Lanier*||Kansas City Chiefs|
|1971||John Hadl||San Diego Chargers|
|1970||Johnny Unitas*||Baltimore Colts|