The Kansas City Chiefs have announced that S Eric Berry is the team's nominee for the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide. Berry is joined by candidates from each NFL team in consideration for this illustrious accolade.
A selection panel, comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue; Connie Payton, widow of Walter Payton; Pro Football Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz; 2014 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner Thomas Davis; and Sports Illustrated writer Peter King will announce three finalists this month. The winner will be announced at the fifth annual NFL Honors show in San Francisco, Calif., the site of Super Bowl 50.
The 2015 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner will receive a total donation of $50,000 from the NFL Foundation and Nationwide in his name to a charity of his choice. The other two finalists will receive $10,000 donations in their names, while the other 29 nominees will receive $5,000 donations to their selected charities, courtesy of Nationwide and the NFL Foundation.
"We are very proud to have Eric 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 and a teammate, Eric is known for his leadership both on the field and in the locker room. But his character, determination and heart make him an inspiration. Eric met an unimaginable challenge with faith and perseverance, and his return to the field this season is nothing short of miraculous. All the while, he has maintained his positive spirit and found time and energy to continue his outstanding work in the Kansas City community and beyond. We are proud to see him nominated for one of the most prestigious honors in our game."
A proven playmaker on and off the field, the fifth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft made his mark on the field early in his career. In his first year as a member of the Chiefs, Berry led the team in interceptions and was selected to his first of three Pro Bowls. He also earned the team's Mack Lee Hill Award as its top rookie performer. In 2013, Berry was named first-team All-Pro, the first Chiefs safety to earn the distinction since Deron Cherry in 1988. With more than 60 career games on his NFL resume, Berry has already set a benchmark for defensive back production with an organization that boasts a prominent lineage. He entered the 2015 season needing just 1.5 more sacks to establish a new franchise record for the most quarterback takedowns by a member of the team's secondary.
Off the field, Berry's initial priority is to give his local community the same opportunity he had. Before playing a single professional football game, he established the Eric Berry Foundation and began the revitalization of his hometown Duncan Park. This now multi-sport destination has breathed life into the young athletic Fairburn, Ga., community. Immediately, Berry began his annual football camps, which have now served nearly 4,500 youth and awarded 10 scholarships to elite high school athletes. The Eric Berry Foundation has expanded to include a backpack program supporting 4,050 students. In the Eric Berry Foundation's early years, a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City raised upwards of $317,000.
a few special moments in the career of Eric Berry.
Berry has also sought to make a difference globally. Mobile medical clinics traveling in Eric Berry Foundation vans to Ugandan villages in 2013 and 2014 treated 450 locals, including malnourished and parasite-infected children.
On Dec. 8, 2014, 25-year-old Berry, a team captain and an athlete in his prime and in peak physical condition, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Despite the diagnosis, Berry set a goal to defeat cancer in time to rejoin his team for the start of the 2015 NFL season. Ten months later, he succeeded, outplaying the disease at a speed that awed his doctors, teammates and fans.
The unexpected diagnosis formed a new platform for the Eric Berry Foundation. Berry and his mother met privately with the parents and young patients at a local children's hospital to discuss their journey even before he knew he was cancer free. Under his name, over $107,000 in donations have been made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Next, the Eric Berry Foundation will raise money to fully support the children's hospital's Christmas store, which allows parents of patients to shop for toys within the hospital, without incurring the expense or being too far from their children.
"I'm very grateful to be the Chiefs nominee for this prestigious award," Berry said. "The love and support I've received over the years has been incredible, and I am blessed to be able to give back to the fans in Chiefs Kingdom and beyond. It's an honor to represent an organization that has an incredible legacy of recipients of this award."
Beginning today, 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 Charity Challenge. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most by Thursday, Dec. 31, will receive a $20,000 donation to their charity of choice, courtesy of Nationwide. For Berry, that hashtag is: #BerryWPMOYChallenge.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, named for the legendary Chicago Bears running back, is unique among league honors as it represents the only league award that recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence. While the accolade has been bestowed annually since 1970, no franchise has garnered more honorees than the Chiefs. Former Kansas City players who have taken home the Gladiator statue include LB Willie Lanier (1972), QB Len Dawson (1973), LB Derrick Thomas (1993), G Will Shields (2003) and G Brian Waters (2009).