With the Los Angeles Rams emerging victorious over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI by a score of 23-20 on February 13th, Rams offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth will have to make room on his shelf for two trophies: The Vince Lombardi Trophy presented to the Super Bowl winning team and the NFL’s prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year award for excellence on the field and in his community.
Whitworth, a 16-year veteran of the league, received the Man of the Year award on February 10 during the annual NFL Honors show. Each year, the award is presented to an NFL player for his “outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on it.”
During an emotional acceptance speech, Whitworth said he was “humbled and honored” to join a list of award nominees and winners “who are great on the football field, but live with their hearts off it.”
Whitworth earned the award for his philanthropy work, which centers around building stronger communities in the Los Angeles area.
In a statement, the NFL described some of Whitworth’s philanthropic contributions:
Whitworth launched the Big Whit Homes for L.A. Families program at the beginning of the season and pledged to donate $20,000 after each Rams home game. He also made donations to repair homes in his home state of Louisiana and moved Angelenos facing housing insecurity into affordable homes. In addition, Whitworth works with nonprofits in L.A. to aid people in paying rent, buying groceries and offers support for down payments and the furnishing of home. When Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana in August, Whitworth partnered with Rebuilding Together to assist with essential home repairs to damaged homes.
“It’s called an investment,” Whitworth said of his philanthropy during his speech. “You can invest your time, you can invest your finances or you can invest your voice, doesn’t matter which, we just have to keep investing in each other. Let your heart lead you all the way.”
Perhaps the most touching part of Whitworth’s speech was when he told the story of a Detroit Lions player who sprinted across the field to greet Whitworth following the Rams victory over the Lions earlier this year. Whitworth, who previously played for the Cincinnati Bengals, recounted the interaction:
He said, “Hey man you’re not going to remember me. I’m Derrick Barnes. You spent time with me when you were a young player in Cincinnati at the Boys and Girls Club, and it meant the world to me. You’d just sit with me and talk with me about life, and I was just a little kid. I want you to know how much that meant to me. And the main thing I wanted to say is that I made it. I made it to the NFL, Big Whit.”
Whitworth continued, “On that Tuesday off day, when every guy sitting in this room who played knows I’d rather be at home, I made an investment in him. And I didn’t even know it. I think that’s a great lesson for all of us. None of us know when the moment’s going to present itself. The key is to always be available when it does.”
The NFL’s Man of the Year award is named for former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, who was highly respected for his humanitarian work during his career. The recipient of the award receives a $250,000 donation payable to the charity of his choice. The 31 other nominees receive up to $40,000 for their chosen charities as well.