Three community-minded NFL players will be recognized during Super Bowl week as finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, it was announced Sunday. Nnamdi Asomugha of the Oakland Raiders, Israel Idonije of the Chicago Bears and Madieu Williams of the Minnesota Vikings are the top candidates for this year’s award, named for the legendary Chicago Bears running back who died in 1999.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is the only league award that recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will be announced live on FOX before Super Bowl XLV on February 6. Asomugha and Idonije will be in North Texas during Super Bowl week and participate in a press conference on Friday, February 4, with the late Walter Payton’s family. Williams will be in the Persian Gulf, having made an earlier commitment to visit with U.S. service members during Super Bowl week, re-enforcing his commitment to the community.
On Super Bowl Sunday, one of the three finalists will join an esteemed list of winners of the annual award, including 17 Pro Football Hall of Famers. Recent winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award include Brian Waters of the Kansas City Chiefs (2009), former Arizona Cardinalsquarterback Kurt Warner (2008) and Jason Taylor, then of the Miami Dolphins (2007).
The three finalists were chosen by a blue-ribbon panel from among the 32 team nominees for the award, all of whom receive a $1,000 donation from NFL Charities to the charity of their choice. The three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name. The selection panel is comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, Giants great and Executive Director of the NFL Alumni Association George Martin, 2009 winner Brian Waters, and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive the Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, Daniel Schwartz. In addition, the player’s favorite charity will receive an additional $20,000 donation in his name.
Nnamdi Asomugha (Oakland Raiders)
Asomugha is a four-time Pro Bowl cornerback for the Oakland Raiders. In 2010, he was only targeted 33 times by opposing quarterbacks, embodying the essence of a shut-down corner. Off the field, he serves as chairman of the Asomugha Foundation, where he works to enhance the two key programs, OWIN and ACTS. OWIN, Orphans and Widows in Need, supports women and children in Nigeria and provides food, shelter, medicine, vocational training, literacy efforts and scholarships. OWIN is currently working to expand the existing two centers in Nigeria to other countries throughout Africa. ACTS, the Asomugha College Tour for Scholars, was created in 2007 and is an annual college tour and mentoring program which provides high-achieving high-school students of color the opportunity to visit college campuses across the country. To date, ACTS has provided 36 students with opportunity to tour colleges and universities in Atlanta, Boston, New York, and Washington, DC. The 2011 tour will take an additional 16 students to New Orleans. Asomugha speaks nationally on the merits of volunteerism and education and was an invited guest of former President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Foundation Global Initiative University (2009, 2010). He currently serves as a national spokesperson for United Way’s “Live United” campaign and NFL Network’s “Keep Gym in School” initiative.
Israel Idonije (Chicago Bears)
Now in his seventh season with the Chicago Bears, Idonije is a dominant force on and off the field. As a vital member of the Bears defensive line, Idonije is tied for the team lead in sacks and forced fumbles, tied for second in QB pressures and second in tackles. Idonije exhibits the same leadership, tenacity and determination off the field through his work with the Israel Idonije Foundation (IIF), which he created in 2007. He is present and personally involved in all activities associated with the Foundation and has contributed more than $300,000, along with other in-kind contributions. Idonije’s First Down Attendance Program currently serves more than 600 economically disadvantaged students in five schools in Chicago and Manitoba, Canada. Designed to encourage and sustain students’ regular school attendance, high achievement and good citizenship, the program motivates and rewards students. Participating schools have increased student’s regular attendance by at least 8 percent. The Israel Idonije Foundation, through its C.A.R.E. Africa program (Caring, Advancing, Restoring and Educating), extends into the international front by promoting education, self-preservation, humanitarianism, leadership, and awareness. Idonije is a two-time NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee and has been the Bears spokesman for the United Way LIVE UNITED campaign in 2009 and 2010.
Madeieu Williams (Minnesota Vikings)
Williams’ charitable works have achieved local, national and global impact. Locally, he works with the North Community YMCA, United Way and Harvest Prep/Seed Academy and provides season tickets for the kids in his “Dieu’s Crew” program. Williams also hosted a free football camp in Maryland, where he was raised, this past summer, and continues to support the Cincinnati area after a stint playing for the Bengals. Globally, Williams made a $2 million donation to create the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health at the University of Maryland, where he attended college. The center will address public health issues in Prince George’s County and Sierra Leone, where Williams was born. He has already built a primary school in the African nation and is now building a secondary school there as well. His foundation sponsored a mission to Sierra Leone that brought American teachers, surgeons and dentists to help educate the teachers at his school, give free dental cleanings to all of the students and provide free surgeries. Williams came to the Vikings as a free agent in 2008 and has been a stalwart in the defensive backfield. He has started 38 of his 39 games and notched a career-best 96 tackles in 2010. Williams is a leader on the Vikings defense that has ranked in the NFL’s top 10 each of his three seasons with the club. Williams led the Vikings DBs in tackles in 2009 when the team advanced to the NFC Championship game.