On Thursday evening, the National Football League announced that Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith was the team's nominee for the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide. Smith is joined by candidates from each NFL team in consideration for this renowned accolade.
"We are very proud to have Alex represent Chiefs Kingdom as this year's nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award," Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. "As a player, teammate and mentor, Alex is known for his leadership on and off the field. His charisma, determination and heart make him such an inspiration to this organization and to the Kansas City community. Alex's competitiveness and drive have guided us to a record number of wins the last five seasons, but his selfless contributions to those in the foster care system will be a large part of his legacy. We are proud to see him nominated for one of the most prestigious honors in our game."
Three of the nominees will be selected as finalists for the award and will be revealed in January 2017. The winner will be announced at NFL Honors on Saturday, Feb. 4, the night before Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
"To be nominated for this award is an incredible honor," Smith said. "There are a lot of guys on this team that do so much for our community, it's really humbling to be the one to represent our organization this year. Our focus has always been about providing resources to foster teens that are transitioning into adulthood, and the day-to-day challenges that come with that. I'd like to thank my family and all of the people that help my foundation run, they really deserve a lot of the credit here. I'm grateful for this opportunity and hope that it will bring even more attention to our cause."
This year, in addition to a donation to a charity of his choice, each nominee will also receive a donation in his name to implement the NFL and United Way's *Character Playbook *Program in his organization's market. *Character Playbook *is a national education initiative focused on youth character development and healthy relationships that was launched by the NFL during the 2016 NFL Draft. This interactive digital program uses evidence-based strategies to educate students on how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships during their critical middle school years with a focus on positive character development and social-emotional learning.
The 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner will receive a total contribution of $1 million dollars, with $500,000 from the NFL Foundation and Nationwide in his name to a charity of his choice, while the other $500,000 will go to supporting the expansion of Character Playbook *across all NFL markets. The other two finalists will receive $125,000 donations to the charity of their choice as well as $125,000 contribution in their names to expand *Character Playbook. The additional 29 team winners will receive a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice and an additional $50,000 donation in their name to implement *Character Playbook *in their club market all from the generosity of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.
Smith's consistency as a leader throughout his 13-year career has led him to play in 153 games (148 starts) while completing 2,809 of 4,510 passes for 31,085 yards and 180 touchdowns. His initial NFL stop was in San Francisco as the first overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft. Smith joined the Chiefs via trade in 2013 and has since totaled 47 wins – ranking him first on the list for most wins by a Chiefs quarterback in their first five seasons. The 2013 Pro Bowler was also named as the club's 2015 Derrick Thomas Award co-honoree, given to the Chiefs Most Valuable Player.
Whether Smith is rallying his teammates in a huddle to secure a victory or helping foster teens reach their fullest potential, he's found a winning formula for success that has changed the lives of many. His Alex Smith Foundation uplifts the foster care community, both in his home state of California and in his Midwestern home of Kansas City. Its mission is to provide foster teens with the tools and resources needed to transition to successful adulthood. The need is great for this demographic, which sees half become unemployed within two years of leaving the system.
Success has been found through the foundation's Guardian Scholars program, which not only provides a scholarship, but also year-round housing and extensive individual guidance and support. In all, 23 former foster youth have graduated from San Diego State University, with a 78% graduation rate, significantly surpassing the national rate of 3% for foster youth. This success even convinced San Diego State to replicate it, supporting another 205 foster graduates.
Shortly after arriving in Kansas City, Smith brought a high school component from the scholarship program, the Youth Educational Success curriculum, to Cornerstones of Care. Combined, 120 high school foster youth have successfully taken and completed college courses, instilling greater self-confidence.
Smith has personally donated a significant amount to charitable causes since 2005, including covering all the administrative costs incurred by the foundation. This unparalleled fiscal responsibility has allowed for more than 90% of the $1.16M raised by the foundation to directly impact foster youth. That threshold is nearly unprecedented, not just across the NFL, but throughout his peers in professional athletics. As a result, his foundation was identified by the Boston Globe in an article on Feb. 24, 2013 as having a "winning formula" for an athlete's foundation. That same year the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted several former guardian foster youth, specifically attributing their success "to Alex Smith and his foundation."
Beginning Monday, Dec. 12 through Saturday, Jan. 7, fans are invited to vote for their favorite Man of the Year nominee by using that player's unique hashtag on any social media platform for the third annual Walter Payton Man of the Year Charity Challenge. The player hashtag that generates the most mentions will win an additional $25,000 donation to his charity of choice, courtesy of Nationwide. For Smith, that hashtag is: #WPMOYChallengeSmith. The Charity Challenge finalists will be announced during halftime of the AFC Championship Game on CBS while the Charity Challenge winner will be unveiled at NFL Honors. The Charity Challenge runner up will earn a $10,000 donation while the third place winner will receive a $5,000 donation. All 32 nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award are listed at www.nfl.com/ManOfTheYear. Smith and the 31 other nominees for the 2017 award began wearing a special helmet decal beginning during Week 14 games that will remain throughout the rest of the season to recognize their nominations. Five active players, including New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees, Carolina Panthers LB Thomas Davis, Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, New York Giants QB Eli Manning and Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten, have each received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and will wear a patch on their jersey for the rest of their careers to honor their accomplishments.