Bradley Bozeman nodded his head in gratitude and offered a self-conscious grin after Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced Thursday he was the team’s 2020 nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Bozeman said. “Yeah, I did get a little bit emotional. My teammates mean everything to me. They’ve showed up at every one of my events. They’ve posted videos. They’ve made videos. They’ve done anything and everything when I’ve asked. Or even if I don’t ask, they do it out of the kindness of their hearts.”
The Ravens chose Bozeman, the team’s starting left guard, in recognition of the work he and his wife, Nikki, have done to combat childhood bullying and distribute meals to thousands of Baltimore-area families. The Bozemans crossed the country in their RV last offseason, stopping at schools to raise awareness of bullying until the coronavirus pandemic cut their trip short.
The Payton award, won last year by Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell, is the NFL’s highest honor for off-field service.
On the field, Bozeman will go into Monday’s game against the Cleveland Browns as the only Ravens offensive lineman starting at the same position he played in the season opener between the teams. But he’s optimistic after the line cleared the way for a season-high 294 rushing yards in Tuesday’s win over the Dallas Cowboys.
“We’ve been unfortunate to have a lot of injury, a lot of different scenarios come up,” he said. “But our whole line room, even the guys who aren’t starting right now, has done an amazing job just sticking with it and continuing to grow every day, prepare like they’re going to play. And in a lot of cases, that’s really paid off. I like where we’re at right now.”