J.J. Watt named Walter Payton Man of the Year finalist
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has been named as one of the three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
The prestigious award honours NFL players who have shown not just excellence on the field, but have been leaders in volunteer and charity work.
This year's winner will be revealed during the NFL Honours show the night before Super Bowl LII.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson have also been selected as finalists alongside Watt.
A three-time Defensive Player of the Year who has missed much of the last two seasons due to injury, Watt started a fund-raising campaign in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the city of Houston.
He raised more than $37 million in less than three weeks. In addition, his Justin J. Watt Foundation, founded in 2010, has provided more than $3.4 million in funding for youth sports.
Olsen and his wife, Kara, founded the HEARTest Yard Fund in 2013 after an exam of their unborn son, T.J., revealed the infant had a congenital heart defect. The couple have not only donated their own money toward pediatric heart equipment and screening, but headline an annual gala that has raised almost $4 million in only three years. The HEARTest Yard Fund unveiled a new cardiac neurodevelopmental program in 2017.
Watson, who missed all of the 2016 season with an Achilles injury, returned this season to haul in 61 passes for 522 yards and four touchdowns. He has been hailed for his work in a variety of charitable efforts, but his One More Foundation supports both existing charities and initiates programs of its own in working to combat human trafficking and violence against the poor. He also hosts the Big BENefit, which offers 25 underserved families an opportunity to provide Christmas gifts for their children.
"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. "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."