Allen Park — The Detroit Lions announced linebacker Devon Kennard is the team's 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee on Thursday.
The award recognizes a player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
"Since joining our team last season, Devon has exemplified what it means to be a man of the community through his platform as an NFL player," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "His natural leadership skills on the football field translate to who he is as a person and the example he sets for people of all ages in our city. He is a team captain for a reason and we are very proud to have him as our nominee."
Kennard has worked closely with the Midnight Golf Program in Detroit since signing with the Lions in 2018, and created his own scholarship fund this year for students involved with the organization.
Through mentorship and skill building, the Midnight Golf Program helps under-served youth transitioning from high school to college and into a professional career. Kennard’s scholarship includes an application, as well as an essay submission that is reviewed and selected by Kennard himself.
"We are immensely grateful for Devon’s support of the Midnight Golf Program," program founder Renee Fluker said. "Our work to ensure the college, career and life success of Detroit area students closely aligns with the way he wants to make an impact through his professional platform. It also fits in the way he and his family are making an impact as he established a scholarship fund for the students of Midnight Golf to assist in their pursuit of college success. More than a financial investment, he takes the time to meet and forge meaningful relationships with Midnight Golf students.”
Kennard also worked closely with the team on its launch of a player-driven social justice initiative, Detroit Lions Inspire Change. As part of the initiative, Kennard and several teammates participated in “Talk It Up Thursday” throughout the summer. The event was hosted by the Detroit Police Department and Men of Courage organization as Lions players and a panel of male students reflected on social resiliency and how to succeed despite negative circumstances.
And in his hometown of Phoenix, Kennard volunteered at the first annual “Hogs and Dawgs” Lineman Academy. The camp provided an opportunity for high school student-athletes from all over the state of Arizona to receive offensive and defensive line coaching from Kennard and his father, former NFL player Derek Kennard Sr.
"As I reflect on every player who has ever won this award I see one common thread; a group of men who are exceptional football players, but at some point made the realization that real success is helping others succeed and grow," Kennard said in a statement. "Their life’s work reflects this realization. Youth mentorship, education and literacy have been a passion of mine since entering the NFL six years ago and I’m excited to shed light on the amazing organizations I have had the honor of working with here in Detroit."
All 32 nominees will receive a donation of up to $50,000 in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
The 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air on Feb. 1, the night before the Super Bowl.