Allen Park — The Detroit Lions announced quarterback Matthew Stafford is the team's 2018 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which recognizes outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
"Walter was such an incredible person and player and there have been so many influential people, great people that have been nominated – whether by their team or won the award through the NFL throughout the years,” Stafford said in a statement released by the team. “When I think back on the things that we have done as a family, I feel proud of what we have accomplished in the community here. Detroit is a place that needs love, attention and help, and I feel blessed that I got drafted here to a place that needed that. It’s been an eye-opening experience for me and a great opportunity to make changes in people’s lives. It is a great honor and something that is extremely humbling.”
Stafford's most-notable contributions have come through S.A.Y. Detroit, which aims to improve the lives of disadvantaged citizens through shelter, food, care, volunteer efforts and education.
In 2015, Stafford's $1 million donation to S.A.Y. allowed the group to re-open and renovate a recreation center on the city's east side.
"It’s awesome to have, kind of like, a piece of real estate out there where you get to watch it, and the thing that appreciates about it, really more than anything, is the people going through it, which is pretty cool to see those kids grow up," Stafford said. "Hopefully they have more of a chance than they did before. Great athletic things go on there, but a whole learning at the center to go with it.
"These kids have opportunities, whether it’s through music or building robots, there’s all sorts of things going on over there that they probably wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise, and (I’m) happy to be a part of that."
Stafford recently wore custom S.A.Y. Detroit cleats for the NFL's "My Cause, My Cleats" campaign.
And during Christmas time, he and wife Kelly regularly adopt multiple local families that are struggling during the holidays. In 2016, the couple embraced the families of two slain police officers.
"Just happy to hopefully bring some cheer to some people in the holidays that have maybe had a tough time," Stafford said. "This year, it was a great opportunity, considering I did two families with fallen police officers, people that protect us and lost their lives in the line of duty. Something we felt was important and just happy to do it."
As a nominee, Stafford will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
The award winner will be announced during the NFL Honors program in February. The winner will have $500,000 donated in their name, with $250,000 going to expand Character Playbook, the NFL and United Way’s digital character education program and another $250,000 to a charity of their choice.
All 32 nominees will receive $50,000 donations in their name, split evenly between Character Playbook and a personal cause. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.