MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Houston Texans defensive end J.J. WATT was named the 2017 WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR PRESENTED BY NATIONWIDE, the NFL announced today. Considered the league's most prestigious honor, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes a player for his excellence on and off the field.
Prior to kickoff of Super Bowl LII, past Man of the Year winners will be recognized on-field, as a testament to their contributions to the game and to their communities. The Man of the Year Legacy Pregame Moment will culminate with the introduction of Watt as the 2017 recipient, welcoming him into the exceptional fraternity.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, J.J. Watt solidified his importance to the city of Houston by being an unwavering fixture of hope. While watching the events unfold from a hotel room in Dallas, J.J. posted a video on social media announcing a fundraising campaign with a very reasonable goal of $200,000, to which he matched the first $100,000. In 19 days, he raised more than $37 million. J.J. has dedicated himself to finding organizations that will apply the funds in the way he has promised the donors and victims of Harvey. He recently announced a plan with strategic partners, making good on his promise to ensure that every dollar goes directly to the people of Houston and its surrounding areas that are in need.
J.J.'s dedication to charitable service began at a young age when the thought of being in the NFL was still just a dream. He started the Justin J. Watt Foundation in Wisconsin in 2010 out of a desire to help underserved kids. His personal motto of "Dream Big, Work Hard" culminated into a mission that he continues to use to impact communities nationwide. The foundation has provided over $3.4 million in funding to middle schools and organizations that have insufficient funding for after-school athletic programs or no after-school athletics whatsoever for 6th – 8th grade children.
In his 7th NFL season, J.J. has been named to the Pro Bowl 4 times and is a 4-time first-team All-Pro. Leading the league in sacks in 2012 and 2015, J.J. was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in both those years and in 2014 as well. J.J. has played in 88 games for the Texans and recorded a total of 394 tackles and 76 sacks.
Watt will receive $500,000, half of which will go to a charity of his choice and half of which will support the expansion of Character Playbook across the country. Character Playbook is the NFL and United Way's digital education program that teaches middle school students how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships. As the runners-up, Olsen and Watson will each receive a $100,000 donation to their charity of choice and a $100,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook. All other 29 nominees received a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice and an additional $50,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.