BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson is among three finalists selected for this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Watson joins Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen.
“Greg, Benjamin and J.J. have changed countless lives with their generosity and commitment to helping others,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Sunday afternoon. “As remarkable leaders on and off the field, they personify the character of the late Walter Payton. We commend them for using their platforms to leave a positive impact on communities across the country.”
Each NFL team nominates one player for the award, which recognizes athletes for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field.
The winner will be announced on Feb. 3, the eve of Super Bowl LII. The NFL says $500,000 dollars will be donated in the name of the 2017 winner.
“You don’t have to spend much time with Benjamin to understand his passion for serving others,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti told the NFL. “He is an exceptional person who has a unique ability to lead, educate and inspire. For him to be honored with this award is outstanding. He never looks for recognition, but he certainly deserves it.”
The NFL released the following statement about Watson’s charitable efforts:
Benjamin assists countless people through his charitable arm, the One More Foundation. One More’s mission is to bless individuals wherever they are, whether supporting existing charities or initiating programs of its own. Most recently, One More partnered with the International Justice Mission (IJM). In partnership with IJM, the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization working to combat human trafficking, modern day slavery and other forms of violence against the poor, the Watsons joined the global fight to end the scourge of sex trafficking. This effort was highlighted in April during a three-day trip to Lebanon, where Benjamin witnessed firsthand the Middle East’s refugee crisis. Additionally, he and his wife, Kirsten, traveled to the Dominican Republic in June to begin formulating plans that combat sex trafficking.
Benjamin also annually hosts the Big BENefit – an event that offers 25 underserved families an opportunity to provide holiday gifts for their children. Each parent is brought to a local Walmart and is surprised with dinner and a $300 gift card to shop with their favorite Raven. Benjamin also started a campaign with the fundraising platform, Donors Choose, where One More matches all donations raised. This year’s contributions go directly to benefit local schools in Baltimore, allowing teachers to purchase tools – books, art supplies, iPads – that enhance their children’s educational experience.
Coming off a season-ending Achilles injury that sidelined him in 2016, Benjamin was back in full force on the field, as he led the Ravens with 61 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns. Completing his 14th NFL season, he has played in 179 career games to produce 495 receptions for 5,485 yards and 42 touchdowns. Benjamin was also named recipient of the 2017 Bart Starr Award, given annually to the NFL player who exemplifies character and leadership on and off the field. In 2015, he was a Man of the Year finalist while with the Saints, while he was also honored as one of five finalists for the NFLPA’s Whizzer White Award.
The 14-year pro and his wife, Kirsten, joined the global fight to end the scourge of sex trafficking.
“There are 2 million children worldwide involved in sex traffic and exploitation,” he says. “This slavery issue is really a big deal that kind of goes on unnoticed and unheralded.
“People want to help, a lot of times people don’t know how. The problems of the world seem so overwhelming that they do not know where to start. We provide people the opportunity to do something for someone.
“Whenever you help somebody, they end up helping you and you learn as much from them as they do from you.”
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