Larry Fitzgerald, still undecided about whether he will play in 2017, has a chance to earn the NFL’s most prestigious off-field award for the 2016 season.
The Cardinals wide receiver was named Sunday as one of the three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, presented by Nationwide. He is joined by Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Panthers tight end Greg Olsen.
The winner will be named Feb. 4 at the NFL Honors event in Houston, the night before the Super Bowl.
Fitzgerald was named the Cardinals’ Man of the Year in December, thanks to all his charitable and community work.
“I think it’s important as an athlete,” Fitzgerald said then. “I’m on the field pregame and you see all the
“You have a responsibility to go out and be a good example and make sure you’re doing right and you’re paying attention to the things that really matter. It’s great to go out and catch touchdowns and win football games, but at the end of the day, it’s a game. The game of life is much more important.”
Last year’s Walter Payton NFL winner was Fitzgerald’s former teammate Anquan Boldin, then of the San Francisco 49ers.
Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner won it in 2008, the same season the team reached the Super Bowl. Warner is the only Cardinal to win the NFL award, which has been presented since 1970. With no NFL Honors in 2008, Warner was presented with the award prior to Super Bowl kickoff.
“We were all on the sideline right before the National Anthem, and Kurt was standing there on the podium with Mrs. Payton receiving his award,” Fitzgerald said. “That was really special. I think he’s got to be the only one that was actually in uniform to accept the award, so to have two Cardinals do that, that would be pretty cool.”
The winner gets $1 million donated in his name, with $500,000 going to their charity of the player’s choice and $500,000 to the expansion of the league’s Character Playbook charity, across all NFL cities.
The two non-winning finalists will get $125,000 for their charity and $125,000 for Character Playbook.
The donations come from Nationwide, the NFL Foundation and the United Way.
“The (giving-back) message that comes from the very top of our organization,” Fitzgerald said. “It really falls down to all the players in serving this community. Mr. (Bill) Bidwill and his family, countless places I’ve been throughout my years, they always talk about the generous donations that the Bidwill family has done here and there. So it’s coming from the very top of this organization.”