Benjamin Watson is Ravens' nominee for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award

The Baltimore Sun

Tight end Benjamin Watson is the Ravens’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, it was announced Thursday.

Representing the best of the NFL’s commitment to philanthropy and community impact, Watson was selected as the Ravens’ Man of the Year and is now eligible to win the national award. The award recognizes a player for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field.

Watson assists countless people through his charitable arm, the One More Foundation, a vehicle to “carry the hope and love of Christ to those who need it most, while understanding that the best and most efficient way to reach people's hearts is by first meeting their physical needs.” The organization’s mission is to bless individuals wherever they are, whether supporting existing charities or initiating programs of its own.

Most recently, One More partnered with the International Justice Mission to help fight sex trafficking. In partnership with IJM, the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization working to combat human trafficking, modern-day slavery and other forms of violence against the poor, the Watsons joined the global fight to end the scourge of sex trafficking. This effort was highlighted in April during a three-day trip to Lebanon, where Benjamin witnessed the Middle East’s refugee crisis. Additionally, he and his wife, Kirsten, traveled to the Dominican Republic in June to begin formulating plans that combat sex trafficking.

Watson also annually hosts the Big BENefit — an event that offers 25 underserved families an opportunity to provide holiday gifts for their children. Each parent is brought to a local Walmart and is surprised with dinner and a $300 gift card to shop with their favorite Raven. Additionally, Watson hosts an annual Turkey Drop by donating 50 turkeys to Adopt-A-Block, helping families in need during the Thanksgiving holiday. Furthermore, in 2016, he donated 200 Chick-fil-A meals to first responders assisting with cleanup efforts following devastating floods in Ellicott City.

Watson also started a campaign with Donors Choose for which One More matches all donations made. This year’s contributions go directly to benefit local schools in Baltimore, allowing teachers to purchase tools — books, art supplies, iPads, etc. — that enhance their children’s educational experience.

Named one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of the Year in 2014, Watson regularly appears on Fpx News and CNN to discuss issues such as race, persecution, ISIS, civil unrest and social responsibility. Watson has also authored two books: “The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life,” featuring advice and info on being a father, and “Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race — Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us,” a look at race, bias and justice after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., several years ago.

Three nominees will be selected in January as finalists for the national award, which was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back. The winner will be announced in Minneapolis at NFL Honors, a two-hour prime-time awards special to air nationally Feb. 3, the night before Super Bowl LII, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on NBC.

“We are proud to recognize Benjamin Watson for the work he does to educate, empower and enrich the lives of those in need,” Ravens president Dick Cass said in a news release. “He is a recognized leader in every community he serves and is a shining example of compassion and inspiration. He has helped people not only in many NFL communities, but also in areas all over the world.”

Starting in Week 14, the Walter NFL Man of the Year trophy silhouette will appear in uniform elements to further recognize past award winners and current nominees. Watson will wear a Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.

After missing last season, his first with the Ravens, because of a torn Achilles tendon, Watson leads the team in receptions with 45 for 347 yards and three touchdowns. He and Kirsten have five children — Eden, Grace, Naomi, Isaiah and Judah.

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