Linebacker Jaylon Smith has been named the Dallas Cowboys' nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
The award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. It was established in 1970 and renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame running back. The award will be presented during Super Bowl week at the NFL Honors television show when The Associated Press reveals its individual award winners.
"This year has presented significant challenges for us all, from the ongoing global pandemic to the continued social injustices witnessed this year," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "The 32 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominees remind us that even in the face of adversity, players continue to raise awareness and use their voice and platform to positively impact their communities.
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The team says Smith's personal business ventures showed him the need to invest in minority entrepreneurs to help them succeed and see their business dreams come true. He launched the Minority Entrepreneurship Institute (MEI) in partnership with RISE Sports Advisors and the Sagamore Institute.
Smith has pledged $2.5 million over 10 years to spur MEI investments and is adding co-investors across the country.
"It is an honor to be nominated by the Dallas Cowboys for this prestigious award," said Smith via a Dallas Cowboys news release. "To be named in the same breath as NFL Legends like Walter Payton for the good work that we, as professional athletes, can use our platform for is humbling and it only encourages me to work harder to lift those up around me. MEI is my purpose beyond athletics, and I am excited that this award will help fuel our vision."
"The Dallas Cowboys are proud to name Jaylon Smith as our 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year candidate," said Charlotte Jones, Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer. "Jaylon exemplifies every quality that this award celebrates. He has a light that he wants to share and shine on others that is rare. We are excited to see what more he can accomplish through his work with minority entrepreneurs and the many other endeavors that he supports."
All 32 nominees will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season and receive a $40,000 donation in their name to their charity of choice.
The winner of the award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of his choice.
And there's a way fans can get involved through Nationwide's 6th annual Charity Challenge social media campaign.
Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee's last name. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between Dec. 10 and Jan. 17 will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second and third-place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide.
Here are the 32 nominees:
Arizona: Corey Peters
Atlanta: Steven Means
Baltimore: Bradley Bozeman
Buffalo: Harrison Phillips
Carolina: Shaq Thompson
Chicago: Jimmy Graham
Cincinnati: Geno Atkins
Cleveland: Myles Garrett
Dallas: Jaylon Smith
Denver: Justin Simmons
Detroit: Trey Flowers
Green Bay: Corey Linsley
Houston: Michael Thomas
Indianapolis: Jacoby Brissett
Jacksonville: Josh Lambo
Kansas City: Travis Kelce
Las Vegas: Alec Ingold
Los Angeles Chargers: Isaac Rochell
Los Angeles Rams: Andrew Whitworth
Miami: Byron Jones
Minnesota: Eric Kendricks
New England: Devin McCourty
New Orleans: Demario Davis
New York Giants: Dalvin Tomlinson
New York Jets: Pierre Desir
Philadelphia: Rodney McLeod
Pittsburgh: Vance McDonald
San Francisco: Arik Armstead
Seattle: Russell Wilson
Tampa Bay: Mike Evans
Tennessee: Kevin Byard
Washington: Jonathan Allen
Current players who have won the award are Drew Brees, Thomas Davis, Larry Fitzgerald, Jason Witten, J.J. Watt and Calais Campbell.