The Houston Texans announced Whitney Mercilus as its nominee for the WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD PRESENTED BY NATIONWIDE. Considered one of the league's most prestigious honors, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. Each of the league's 32 nominees were announced today.
Mercilus launched his own foundation, WithMerci, with a focus on supporting families of children with disabilities and special needs. In the last two years, the WithMerci Foundation has donated more than $325,000 to advocate services for families of children with disabilities and academic programs servicing the special needs population. Outside of practices, team meetings, workouts and his own foundation's needs and events, Mercilus can be found participating and supporting his teammates' charitable events as well. He has contributed countless hours and monetary contributions to organizations such as $20,000 to the Houston Independent School District for their Department of Special Education, $65,000 towards recovery efforts to Smartie Pants Academy, a school specifically serving students with disabilities and special needs, post Hurricane Harvey and $25,000 to the American Red Cross. Mercilus is the face of the Texans mascot program, TORO Takes the Bull Out of Bullying, using his voice to reach thousands of elementary school students throughout Houston and teach them how to recognize and remove bullying from their schools. He also collaborates with Easter Seals of Houston, Homeless World Cup Foundation, Jamie's Hope, Project 88, Teens Helping Kids, Texas Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and many more.
"The Houston Texans have long been appreciative of all that Whitney does for the community since being drafted in 2012," said Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Cal McNair. "Giving back to the City of Houston and the Texans community is a vital part of our mission as an organization, and year in and year out, Whitney goes above and beyond. Whitney is the true embodiment of what it means to be a Houston Texan and is most deserving to be recognized as our Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee."
As a nominee, Whitney Mercilus 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.
New this year, all 32 team winners will be highlighted as finalists and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LIII. The 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on February 2, the eve of Super Bowl LIII, on CBS. NFL Honors will be at Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
Five hundred thousand dollars will be donated in the name of the 2018 winner. $250,000 will be donated in his name to expand Character Playbook, the NFL and United Way's digital character education program. An additional donation of $250,000 will be donated to the charity of his choice. All other 31 nominees will receive a donation of $50,000 in their name to expand Character Playbook, and an additional donation of up to $50,000 to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's 4th annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees. Fans can vote by using #WPMOYChallenge on Twitter with their favorite nominee's last name somewhere in the post between December 6 and January 13. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, courtesy of Nationwide. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at nfl.com/manoftheyear.
More information about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award can be found at http://www.nfl.com/manoftheyear.