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Russell Wilson named Walter Payton Man of the Year

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson did not end the season in the playoffs like he was hoping but his community endeavors are enough to overshadow that disappointment. During the annual NFL Honors awards show on Saturday night, Wilson was named the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year to recognize his tireless work on and off the field. 

This is the second time Wilson was nominated by the Seahawks for the award, the first time being 2014. Most recently, Wilson was the recipient of the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation Award of Excellence for his efforts to fund cancer research.  

“Russell Wilson has always prioritized serving his community, but this year, he met the challenge and more when it was needed most,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “He has shown continued excellence on the field for nine seasons, but the work he has done to help youth and fight food insecurity through his Why Not You Foundation bolsters his lasting legacy.” 

“Russell is extremely deserving of this award and I know he will use this as an additional springboard to continue to positively impact others,” Goddell continued. 

Wilson started his Why Not You Foundationin 2014, which is a nonprofit dedicated to education, children’s health and fighting poverty, empowering today’s youth to lead with a “why not you” attitude. 

He has also participated in numerous community projects over the years with Seattle Children’s Hospital, Friends of the Children and created the Why Not You Scholars program.

“On behalf of Nationwide, congratulations to Russell Wilson on winning this year’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, and joining the elite group of players whose inspiring work supporting those in need is in direct alignment with this award’s namesake,” Nationwide Chief Marketing Officer Ramon Jones said.  

“Russell has shown tremendous leadership, compassion and commitment through his tireless efforts to help the underserved, creating positive change in his community and beyond,” Jones further stated. 

During the ongoing global pandemic, Wilson continued to work on his long-standing community projects and newer initiatives but focused his efforts around food insecurity. He and his wife Ciara pledged a personal donation of 1 million meals to Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. 

He also partnered with Wheels Up in March to launch the Meals Up initiative to address the growing levels of food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis. The ongoing effort has already raised more than 60 million meals for Feeding America.

Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation partnered with Ride United Last Mile delivery program to bring food and supplies to vulnerable populations in 175 communities in the United States. Due in large part to Wilson’s involvement and innovation, the Seattle area will soon become the region that distributes the highest number of food boxes. 

In October, Wilson and Ciara also launched the first ever Why Not You Academy in Seattle. Scheduled to open in Fall 2021, the entirely new charter school will be a tuition-free public school offering a unique, personalized approach and high-quality education option for the low-income and racially segregated neighborhoods in the Seattle area.

Simultaneously, as the isolation caused by the pandemic exposed the inequities and injustices people of color experience in our country at levels never seen before, Wilson chose to use his platform to encourage change. 

He was motivated to bring awareness to racial injustices and secured billboards and digital message boards in communities across the country reading, “Black Lives Matter, Love Russell & Ciara.” 

Wilson also used his platform this season to focus on the importance of voting, especially among young people and communities of color. He and Ciara partnered with the campaign I am a voter to encourage NFL fans to register to vote. 

He was personally instrumental in bringing the campaign to NFL players, coaches, and staff across the league and secured 100% participation by the Seahawks organization.

Wilson will receive a donation of $250,000, which will go to a charity of his choice. All other 31 nominees will receive a donation of $40,000 in their name to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.

On the field, Wilson led the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowl appearances in 2013 and 2014, including the franchise’s only title in 2013. He is an eight-time Pro Bowler, has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week a franchise-record 11 times, and holds 26 major franchise records.

He has been voted team captain eight consecutive seasons and has won the team’s Steve Largent Award three times (2014, 2018, 2019), given to the player that best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of being a Seahawk.

Prior to the kickoff of Super Bowl LV, all 32 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominees, one representative for each club, will be recognized for their contributions to the game and to their communities. 

The Man of the Year Nominee Pregame Moment will include the 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, Baltimore Ravens Defensive End Calais Campbell, handing the award to Wilson as he is introduced as the 2020 recipient

To learn more about all 32 team nominees, visit