Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, whose fundraising efforts for Hurricane Harvey garnered national attention, received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award on Saturday at the NFL Honors Show at the University of Minnesota.
Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson and Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen were the other finalists for the award. Watt was considered the favorite after he raised $37 million in less than three weeks for relief efforts in Houston following the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is given annually to a player who demonstrates excellence on and off the field.
After missing the entire 2016 season following surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, Watson returned to the field and led the Ravens with 61 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns.
The 37-year-old also continued to be a leading NFL voice on matters affecting the league and on social issues. A father of five, Watson has written books on both fatherhood and race relations and he’s a regular contributor on CNN and Fox News.
Watson and his wife, Kirsten, traveled to the Dominican Republic in June, leading to their charity, the One More Foundation, teaming up with the International Justice Mission to combat human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor. Watson also went to Lebanon last April to gather information about the Middle East’s refugee crisis.
A Norfolk, Va., native who signed with the Ravens as a free agent before the 2016 season, Watson has also been extremely active in Baltimore, helping underprivileged families and kids.
On Saturday in Minnesota, Watson received the 2017 Bart Starr Award, which “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community.” He’s also the Ravens’ nominee for the Ed Block Courage Award.
He’s a two-time finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Watson is a pending free agent who acknowledged after his 14th season that he’s considering retirement.
The only Raven to win the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award was center Matt Birk in 2011.
For being a finalist, Watson will receive $100,000 to donate to a charity of his choice. The NFL will also make a $100,000 donation to his name to Character Playbook, the NFL and United Way’s digital education program that teaches middle school students how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships.