Walter Payton Man of the Year
Logo of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award
Awarded forExcellence off the field regarding an NFL player's charity work
Presented byNational Football League
First awardJohnny Unitas QB, 1970
Most recentDak Prescott QB, 2022
Walter Payton rushing the ball against the New Orleans Saints on October 7, 1984, the day he broke Jim Brown's record for both 100 yard games and overall rushing yardage

The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award is presented annually by the National Football League (NFL) honoring a player's commitment to philanthropy and community impact, as well as his excellence on the field. Prior to 1999, it was called simply the NFL Man of the Year Award. Shortly after Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton died (having been the 1977 recipient himself), the award was renamed to honor his legacy as a humanitarian.[1]

The NFL Man of the Year trophy was created in 1969 by artist Daniel Bennett Schwartz, depicting a nondescript caped lineman standing alone on the sidelines, outside of game action; it symbolizes that the award is intended to recognize any player, including one who may perform in a lower-profile playing position outside of the spotlight, whose humanitarian contributions and efforts are worthy. The trophy has never been intended to specifically resemble Payton.[1]

Each year, a winner is selected from 32 nominees from the 32 different teams. A panel of judges, which includes the Commissioner of the NFL, the previous year's winner, and a number of former players select the winner of the award. The Man of the Year winner receives a $250,000 donation in his name to a charity of his choice. The other 31 finalists also receive donations in their name of $50,000 each to charities of their choice. The Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears have had more winners of the award than any other teams, with five winners each. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers, and Dallas Cowboys are the next highest teams with four winners each.

Since 2017, previous winners who are currently active in the league wear a patch depicting the trophy on their uniforms for the rest of their NFL careers. The current active winners (in chronological order) are Calais Campbell, Russell Wilson, and Dak Prescott. Once announced, the nominees of each team are given a helmet decal, also depicting the trophy, to wear for the remainder of the season.[2] The winner is also acknowledged during the Super Bowl pre-game ceremony before "America the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner".

The NFL describes the award as its "most prestigious accolade" and recipients of the award place it among their most cherished.[3][4]


J. J. Watt, the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year award recipient. The special uniform patch is visible.
Larry Fitzgerald, 2016 co-recipient, with team Captain uniform patch (player's right), and Man of the Year patch (player's left).
† Player is still active in the NFL
Year Player Position Team Ref
1970 Johnny Unitas Quarterback Baltimore Colts [5]
1971 John Hadl Quarterback San Diego Chargers [6]
1972 Willie Lanier Linebacker Kansas City Chiefs
1973 Len Dawson Quarterback Kansas City Chiefs
1974 George Blanda Quarterback Oakland Raiders
1975 Ken Anderson Quarterback Cincinnati Bengals
1976 Franco Harris Running back Pittsburgh Steelers
1977 Walter Payton Running back Chicago Bears
1978 Roger Staubach Quarterback Dallas Cowboys
1979 Joe Greene Defensive tackle Pittsburgh Steelers
1980 Harold Carmichael Wide receiver Philadelphia Eagles
1981 Lynn Swann Wide receiver Pittsburgh Steelers
1982 Joe Theismann Quarterback Washington Redskins
1983 Rolf Benirschke Kicker San Diego Chargers
1984 Marty Lyons Defensive tackle New York Jets
1985 Dwight Stephenson Center Miami Dolphins
1986 Reggie Williams Linebacker Cincinnati Bengals
1987 Dave Duerson Safety Chicago Bears
1988 Steve Largent Wide receiver Seattle Seahawks
1989 Warren Moon Quarterback Houston Oilers
1990 Mike Singletary Linebacker Chicago Bears
1991 Anthony Muñoz Offensive tackle Cincinnati Bengals
1992 John Elway Quarterback Denver Broncos
1993 Derrick Thomas Linebacker Kansas City Chiefs
1994 Junior Seau Linebacker San Diego Chargers
1995 Boomer Esiason Quarterback New York Jets
1996 Darrell Green Cornerback Washington Redskins
1997 Troy Aikman Quarterback Dallas Cowboys
1998 Dan Marino Quarterback Miami Dolphins
1999 Cris Carter Wide receiver Minnesota Vikings
2000 Derrick Brooks Linebacker Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jim Flanigan Defensive tackle Chicago Bears
2001 Jerome Bettis Running back Pittsburgh Steelers
2002 Troy Vincent Cornerback Philadelphia Eagles
2003 Will Shields Offensive guard Kansas City Chiefs
2004 Warrick Dunn Running back Atlanta Falcons
2005 Peyton Manning Quarterback Indianapolis Colts
2006 Drew Brees Quarterback New Orleans Saints
LaDainian Tomlinson Running back San Diego Chargers
2007 Jason Taylor Defensive end Miami Dolphins
2008 Kurt Warner Quarterback Arizona Cardinals [7]
2009 Brian Waters Offensive guard Kansas City Chiefs [8]
2010 Madieu Williams Safety Minnesota Vikings [9]
2011 Matt Birk Center Baltimore Ravens
2012 Jason Witten Tight end Dallas Cowboys
2013 Charles Tillman Cornerback Chicago Bears
2014 Thomas Davis Sr. Linebacker Carolina Panthers
2015 Anquan Boldin Wide receiver San Francisco 49ers [10]
2016 Larry Fitzgerald Wide receiver Arizona Cardinals [11]
Eli Manning Quarterback New York Giants [11]
2017 J. J. Watt Defensive end Houston Texans
2018 Chris Long Defensive end Philadelphia Eagles [12]
2019 Calais Campbell Defensive end Jacksonville Jaguars [13]
2020 Russell Wilson Quarterback Seattle Seahawks [14]
2021 Andrew Whitworth Offensive tackle Los Angeles Rams [15]
2022 Dak Prescott Quarterback Dallas Cowboys [16]

See also


  1. ^ a b Callahan, Sean (February 1, 2013). "The Model for a Tribute to Model Players". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2020.
  2. ^ "NFL reveals nominees for Walter Payton Man of the Year Award". December 7, 2017.
  3. ^ "Seahawks QB Russell Wilson named 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year". Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  4. ^ Repository, Jon Kendle / Special to The Canton. "NFL stars count Walter Payton Man of the Year award among game's biggest honors". Canton Repository. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  5. ^ "Johnny Unitas NFL & AFL Statistics". Pro Football Reference. Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  6. ^ "John Hadl NFL & AFL Statistics". Pro Football Reference. Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  7. ^ "Warner named Payton award winner". United Press International. February 1, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  8. ^ "Brian Waters named NFL Man of the Year". United Press International. February 7, 2010. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  9. ^ Gardner, Tim (February 6, 2011). "Vikings' Madieu Williams named Walter Payton Man of the Year". USA Today. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  10. ^ Hagemann, Andie (February 6, 2016). "Anquan Boldin named Walter Payton Man of the Year". Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Fitzgerald, Eli both named Walter Payton Man of Year". February 4, 2017.
  12. ^ Bergman, Jeremy (February 2, 2019). "Chris Long named Walter Payton Man of the Year". Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  13. ^ "Calais Campbell named 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of Year". February 12, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  14. ^ Gordon, Grant (February 6, 2021). "Seahawks QB Russell Wilson named 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year". Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  15. ^ Gordon, Grant (February 10, 2022). "Rams OT Andrew Whitworth named 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year". Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  16. ^ Gordon, Grant (February 9, 2023). "Cowboys QB Dak Prescott named 2022 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year". Retrieved February 9, 2023.