Lions’ Ngata up for honors for community service

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Haloti Ngata might be out for the season, but he’s racked up some meaningful off-field honors the past week.

Last week, Ngata was announced as the Detroit Lions nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, recognizing players for outstanding community service activities, as well as excellence on the field.

Through his foundation, Ngata raises money for a number of causes, primarily college-prep classes for high school students in the Salt Lake City area, which is inspired by his late mother, Ofa.

“He and his wife also do a tremendous job in the community,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “They have several different endeavors that they work with, in terms of camps, opportunities for young people to develop and grow, and also working with our veterans, as well.

“He’s the epitome of what the award is all about.”

Three finalists for the award will be announced in January, with the winner being named during NFL Honors on Feb. 3.

A $500,000 donation in the name of the 2017 winner — $250,000 to the winner’s charity of choice and another $250,000 to Character Playbook, an NFL initiative in conjunction with the United Way. The two other finalists will each receive a $100,000 donation to their charity of choice and a $100,000 donation in their names to Character Playbook. All other 29 nominees will receive a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice and a $50,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook.

In addition to the Lions’ Man of the Year nomination, Ngata also was announced as one of the eight finalists for the 2017 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.

Each NFL team nominates one of its players for the award, which recognizes those who best demonstrate the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.

The winner, determined by a vote of current players, will be announced during NFL Honors and they will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice.

Acquired via a trade prior to the 2015 season, Haloti has appeared in 32 games for the Lions the past three seasons. Despite being on injured reserve with a bicep injury, he continues to be a locker room leader, even traveling with the team on road trips.

“Everybody knows how great he’s been, just in terms of a true pro on the field,” Caldwell said. “Likewise, in the locker room, in terms of mentoring the guys, leading the way, which he’s still doing today even though he’s not playing for us. He’s out there, still active, he’s coaching, he’s working with the guys.”