Every year the NFL honors a particular player who is making a difference in their respective city. That player is often not only an excellent contributor on the field, but a stellar and active volunteer working to improve their community. This season, it is the Bears’ Jimmy Graham who has been nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award as Chicago’s representative.
Graham, 34, came to the Bears as a free agent in March as one of the more decorated, talented, and accomplished tight ends in recent memory. The veteran is used to humiliating defenders with acrobatic leaps and catches, or “dunks,” over the top. But it’s his charity work — which Graham made a priority to secure as soon as he signed in Chicago — that makes him stand out as someone that’s more than an athlete.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Graham wanted to be certain he had means to help those in need across Chicagoland.
“It’s a true honor to be nominated,” said Graham, in reaction. “I signed with the Bears right when the pandemic hit. I just wanted to make sure the first thing I did was to help the community.”
Here is what the tight end had to say on social media:
I’m extremely grateful and humbled by the nomination. What a group of guys to be a part of with the present nominees and the past winners, especially Walter Payton. I hope a true light is shined on the foundations and organizations giving efforts in our local communities. Thank U pic.twitter.com/wJRAmlc8Yv— Jimmy Graham (@TheJimmyGraham) December 10, 2020
Graham’s nomination comes on the heels of his direct work with the Jimmy Graham Foundation, originally instituted years ago. An army brat as a kid, Graham’s foundation especially focuses on assisting military veterans and at-risk youth.
If Graham were to win in 2020, he would join Charles Tillman, Jim Flanigan, Mike Singletary, Dave Duerson, and the namesake, Walter Payton, as the sixth Bears player to capture the honor, which would be the most of any franchise. An always fitting tribute to the legacy and mission of one of football’s greatest players and humanitarians.