The Kansas City Chiefs have their Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee: tight end Travis Kelce. The team announced the nomination via its official Twitter account on Thursday morning.
Kelce, 31, was nominated for the honor in major part thanks to his foundation, “87 & Running,” whose mission is to “empower disadvantaged youth to achieve success by providing resources and support to their communities and cultivating their talent in the areas of education, business, athletics, STEM, and the arts.”
“What inspired me to create ‘87 & Running’ is my upbringing,” Kelce told Chiefs dot com. “One of the most beautiful things about Cleveland Heights is that it’s a melting pot — and growing up in Cleveland Heights, I really understood lending a helping hand is always the right thing to do. Not everybody has the same privileges. Not everybody has the same advantages in life. I just want to make sure that all the kids have those advantages, have those extracurricular opportunities to find something that they love.”
Kelce’s first move after signing a new contract with the Chiefs earlier this year was to announce the building of a STEM lab in the area. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
“The programs that I’ve instituted that I’m most proud of are one — the ‘87 and Running’ robotics lab, as well as the Ignition lab. It’s so cool just to see how far the kids have come in terms of making robots and creating their own designs. We wanted to give them something and somewhere to go and something positive to do. At the ‘87 and Running’ Ignition lab, they’re going to have that.”
Kelce’s annual “Walk the Walk” fashion show, which he began in 2016, has benefitted local organizations Shadow Buddies and Operation Breakthrough.
“Each year, we want the ‘Walk the Walk’ event to get bigger — so that Kansas City keeps getting excited about coming out and raising funds for the less fortunate or underserved Kansas City community,” he added. “I’ve had so many interactions in this community that have made an impact on me — and it’s made me a better person and made me a better man knowing that I can influence the community and the kids in the community to do the right things or genuinely just do better for themselves. At the end of the day, that’s something that I can hang my hat on.”
According to the league’s official website, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. Each team nominates one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community.
Here is the full list of nominees:
Congratulations to all the nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award So much great community work done year-round by them & so many others throughout the NFL. Needed now more than ever. pic.twitter.com/dieYAjSRff— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) December 10, 2020
The winner of the award each year receives $250,000 donated to the winner’s charity of choice. All other 31 nominees receive up to $40,000 donated to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears share the lead in five winners apiece. Linebacker Willie Lanier (1972), quarterback Len Dawson (1973), linebacker Derrick Thomas (1933), offensive lineman Will Shields (2003) and offensive lineman Brian Waters (2009) have all won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
The Nationwide charity challenge
There is a social media tie to the Man of the Year award.
Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee’s last name. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between Dec. 10 and Jan. 17 will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide.