The NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award is given as follows:
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. The award was established in 1970. It was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton. Each team nominates one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community.
The winner of the award each year receives $250,000 donated to United Way in his name to expand Character Playbook across the country and up to $250,000 donated to the winner’s charity of choice. All other 31 nominees will receive a $50,000 donation in their name to expand Character Playbook and up to $50,000 donated to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.
Each year, one player from every team is nominated. This year, Whitney Mercilus gets the nod for the Texans because of his WithMerci Foundation. NFL.com has a full list of the nominees here. You can read why Mercilus was nominated below.
Four years into Mercilus’ NFL career, Whitney Mercilus decided to expand his impact within the Houston community and launched his own foundation, WithMerci. With a focus on supporting families of children with disabilities and special needs, in the last two years, the WithMerci Foundation has donated over $325,000 to advocate services for families of children with disabilities and academic programs servicing the special needs population. Across the City of Houston, repairs are still being made to the Hurricane Harvey damage, and destruction did not discriminate when hitting the city that Mercilus calls home. In an effort to help mend a school that he holds dear, the WithMerci Foundation donated $65,000 towards recovery efforts to Smartie Pants Academy, a school specifically serving students with disabilities and special needs.
In April 2018, Mercilus partnered with Easter Seals of Houston at his Walk With Me Fundraiser to raise funds for life-changing services for veterans, children and adults with disabilities and their families. Mercilus has hosted various events such as Cocktails for a Cause in June, with all the proceeds from the event benefitting the back to school event, Returning 2 Learning. Returning 2 Learning was a back to school bash in August, that provided haircuts and styling, school supplies, clothes, and much more for students affected by Hurricane Harvey. In September, he continued his support of academic programs servicing the special needs population, donating $10,000 to Lawson Middle School in the Houston Independent School District for their Department of Special Education.
Mercilus is also the face of the Texans mascot program, TORO Takes the Bull Out of Bullying, using his voice to reach thousands of elementary school students throughout Houston by teaching them how to recognize and remove bullying from their schools. Mercilus strives to help anyone and everyone that he can. When flooding hit the City of Houston in 2015, it hit close to home for Mercilus, whose own family was impacted by a natural disaster during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He didn’t hesitate to lend a helping hand, personally donating $25,000 to the American Red Cross and spending countless hours delivering food, water and supplies to residents of the affected areas. Through his efforts, he earned the title of official ambassador for the Red Cross of Greater Houston.
The Houston Texans are proud to name Whitney Mercilus their 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
Mercilus will wear a helmet decal for the rest of the year as he looks to accomplish what J.J. Watt did the previous year.