Christian Kirksey received two surprises during his Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination. The first was when the nine-year veteran linebacker found out he named the Houston Texans 2022 nominee.
"Man, I was surprised," Kirksey said. "I didn't think I was up for being a nominee. I found out a couple of weeks ago. My family was all there to support. I thought that I was going to another community event, and the next thing you know, I see this huge picture of myself when I was in high school. I was like, 'Why is there a picture of me in high school?' Then I look over, and I see my whole family. I was speechless for a while. It's just truly an honor."
Kirksey received a second surprise in a custom football jersey from the Uvalde High School football team. Uvalde's Head Coach Wade Miller and senior LB and team captain Justyn Rendon both presented the jersey stitched with Kirksey's number (58) and WPMOY.
Kirksey most recent traveled to Uvalde, Texas following the tragedy at Robb Elementary School to surprise the Uvalde High School football team at their team dinner, provide players with new Nike uniforms and make meaningful connections with the young men. Kirksey and the Texans players donated $200,000, matched by the McNair family, for a total of $400,000 to the Robb School Memorial Fund to provide financial assistance to the community.
"That's an experience that I will forever be grateful to have the opportunity to make that trip," Kirksey said Tuesday. "Roland (Ramirez), our head trainer, that's home for him. So, to be able to experience that, I always tell him thank you for allowing me to go back to his hometown in such a vital part of these young men's lives that were part of that football team I got a chance to meet.
"It was one of those experiences where it's very humbling. It's one of those things where you have to be there to really understand it and really feel what was going on. I'm just appreciative that I was able to go and be somewhat of a mentor to the guys. I can't imagine being in that situation, where something as bad as that happened. I'm a parent myself, and when you have kids that are involved, I can't imagine being a parent and having to pick up a phone call or go to the school and not have your kid there by your side. It's something I can't imagine. I was just taking it all in and being wherever I needed to be for them. It was definitely a humbling experience."
In recognition of this nomination, Kirksey will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the 2022 Season.
"Kirko is as respected a player I would say that we have in the building wherever he's been, whether it's in Cleveland or Green Bay," General Manager Nick Caserio said. "He's been one of the more well-respected players on the team, so a certain level of toughness and his leadership I would say is as good as any that we've had. His actions and people follow him but to be recognized for something non-football related speaks to who Christian is as a person and as an individual and we're fortunate to have him."
Each of the league's 32 nominees were announced Tuesday and will receive up to a $40,000 donation in their name to a charity of their choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will be announced the Thursday before Super Bowl LVII on NBC and receive up to a $250,000 donation to the charity of his choice courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in the eighth annual Charity Challenge by tweeting #WPMOYChallenge and their favorite nominee's Twitter handle to vote for their team's nominee. Kirksey's Twitter handle is @Kirko58. The three nominees with the most mentions between Dec. 6 and Jan. 8 will receive additional donations to the charity of their choice. More information and official rules for the social media contest can be found at NFL.com/manoftheyear.