Andrew Whitworth Named the Walter Payton 'Man of the Year' at NFL Honors

The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award is given to an NFL player who shows "his excellence on and off the field," according to the league

Andrew Whitworth
Andrew Whitworth. Photo: Mark J Terrill/AP/Shutterstock

The Los Angeles Rams' Andrew Whitworth has been named the Walter Payton Man of the Year for 2021 at Thursday's NFL Honors awards show in Los Angeles.

The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award is given to an NFL player who shows "his excellence on and off the field," according to the league.

"What a special moment for me and my family," said Whitworth, 40. "I want to start by thanking my wife Melissa. I wouldn't be up here without her passion for community service and her support she's always given me. Melissa and I have always believed that community service starts in our home. It starts with our own kids, because the best lessons we can give them is to learn from their mom and dad what it means to try, to fail, to regroup and grow from the process."

During his acceptance speech, Whitworth said "we have to keep investing in each other. Let your heart lead you all the way. I've had so many amazing experiences serving the community."

In addition to numerous other charitable ventures, Whitworth and Melissa founded the non-profit Big Whit 77 Foundation, benefitting families and youth in their community. In part, the foundation offers financial assistance to in-need high school seniors, provides adoption resources to families going through the process, and has been distributing $20,000 after every home game to build houses for the less fortunate in his home state of Louisiana.

Every NFL team can nominate one of their players for the award. Players who are ultimately given the honor are granted $250,000 to donate to a charity of their choice. All other nominees can receive up to $40,000, given through the NFL Foundation and Nationwide, to donate to a charity.

Whitworth spoke to PEOPLE this week about what being nominated for the award meant to him, saying, "It's a great moment to sit back and say, 'Man, you know what? A lot of the things you've done, a lot of the opportunities you've had to help people or just represent your team in a way that brings honor and pride to how you do things and how you live life.' I think it's one of those things that will kind of culminate." Like, 'Wow, okay, this is unbelievably humbling.' "

Leading up to the NFL Honors ceremony, Kansas City Chiefs player Tyrann Mathieu received the most votes in Nationwide's 7th annual Charity Challenge. The challenge was a social media campaign meant to promote Man of the Year nominees.

Mathieu received $25,000 for a charity of his choice, while Indianapolis Colts player Kenny Moore II and Harrison Phillips of the Buffalo Bills received $10,000 and $5,000 donations for coming in second and third, respectively.

Last year's award recipient of the Man of the Year award was Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who donated a million meals to a local food bank to aid in relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wilson was the first quarterback to be recognized with the honor since 2016 when Eli Manning was named Man of the Year. He was also the first Seahawks player since Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent received the award in 1988.

Past winners also include Chris Long, J.J. Watt, Charles Tillman, Eli Manning, and Kurt Warner.

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The NFL Honors was held at YouTube Theater in Los Angeles, a short distance from where the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals will play in Super Bowl 56 on Sunday.

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