Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was the recipient of the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award during the NFL Honors show the night before Super Bowl LV.
The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, established in 1970 to recognize excellence both on and off the field, is one of the most prestigious honors given to an NFL Player.
The award is given to a player in recognition of his “outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on it.”
Every season, each of the NFL’s 32 franchises nominates one player to receive the award. Wilson was selected for the award because of his COVID-19 relief efforts and other charitable causes during 2020.
As the winner, a $250,000 donation will be made to Russell and Ciara Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation, founded in 2014 to fight poverty through education and youth empowerment.
Each nominee for the award who did not win received a $40,000 donation in their name to their chosen charity.
Incorporating part of 1 Corinthians 13:4 into his acceptance speech, Wilson said, “To America, to the world, love is patient, love is kind, love changes things.”
He talked about his father, who passed away in 2010: “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 for this award.”
Early in the pandemic, Wilson and his wife, Ciara, donated a million meals to Feeding American and Food Lifeline.
Wilson also launched the Meals Up campaign in partnership with the aviation company Wheels Up. The program raised the equivalent of more than 50 million meals.
“Our Why Not You Foundation will continue to lead with love,” Wilson said. “We will keep fighting poverty through education and empowering the youth to have a ‘why-not-you’ attitude.”
Wilson’s charitable efforts are not new. As NFL.com reports, Wilson has visited Seattle Children’s Hospital every Tuesday during the football season since 2012 – his rookie season.
The 31-year-old star, who came to Christ as a teen, has been outspoken about his faith from the very beginning of his football career. He regularly says he plays for a higher purpose.
“Jesus is love! At the end of the day, we are all looking for someone to comfort us, somebody to be there for us at all times,” he said in a 2014 interview.
“When we are at the worst times of our lives; when we are battling with something, or struggles, whatever it may be, when we are at our highest point as well, when things are going really well, we want somebody to comfort us and be there for us and to say, ‘Well done.’ That’s Jesus!”
Speaking with journalist Maria Shriver in 2016, Wilson said that the reason for the racial divide in America is “… a lack of love. There’s so much hate in the world. There’s so much back and forth. … For me, it always comes back to the biblical aspect: Corinthians 13:13 talks about faith, hope and love. And the greatest of all is love. If we don’t have love, we have nothing.”
Watch this video of Russel Wilson’s charity work, and his acceptance speech for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award HERE (about 7 minutes).
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