MINNEAPOLIS (CBS4) – Shortly before kickoff of the Super Bowl Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and other previous recipients of the NFL’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award gathered together to welcome the newest winner.
The award recognizes a player’s contribution in his community and to society in general.
The winner, announced Saturday night, was Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. Watt raised millions for people affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
Every NFL team submits a nominee for the award every year. This year the Broncos nominee was Chris Harris Jr.
Harris and his wife created the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation in 2012. Harris also supports underprivileged children through his Underdog Academy Football and Cheer Camp in Tulsa.
Watt, in his seventh NFL season and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, had the goal of raising $200,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief. His fundraising did a whole lot more, bringing in an incredible $37 million in 19 days.
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Watt has dedicated himself to finding organizations that will apply the funds in a fair and effective manner.
“I cannot express how humbled and honored that I am to be mentioned in the same sentence as Walter Payton, a man who did everything right not only on the field but off of it,” Watt said in his acceptance speech Saturday night. “And I’m going to continue to try to live that legacy and make that family proud.
“This award is called The Man of the Year Award, but I promise you it is so much bigger than that. This award is about the inherent good that lies within humanity. It is about the city of Houston and its ability to overcome adversity at a time when it all seemed lost. It is about the hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country and all over the world that donated to a city they may never have been to, to people they may never meet. But they donated simply because they saw their fellow human going through a difficult time and they wanted to help out.”
Peyton Manning presented the award to Watt.
“Whether we realize it or not, we are affecting everyone around us with our every move,” Watt added. “The more than we can shine a light on the positivity and the good that we are in this world, the better off we’re going to be. We all have to go through this crazy journey together, so why not help each other out and make it as great of a journey as possible.
“I’m incredibly grateful, I’m incredibly thankful to receive this award and I will cherish it for the rest of my life. The only thing that I ask of you is to join me in trying to carry on the legacy that Walter Payton left behind of leaving this world better than we found it. Take a moment, ask yourself, ‘How can I make a difference? No matter how big, no matter how small, how can I make a difference?’ And when you have your answer, go out and do it.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)