Los Angeles Rams Tackle Andrew Whitworth has been selected as the 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide, the NFL announced Thursday. The League’s most prestigious honor, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. First established in 1970, the national award was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton. The announcement was made during NFL Honors, the League’s annual two-hour primetime awards special held that aired nationally on ABC tonight.
Prior to the kickoff of Super Bowl LVI, all 32 Man of the Year nominees, one representative for each club, will be recognized for their contributions to the game and to their communities. The Man of the Year Nominee Pregame Moment will include the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, handing the award to Whitworth as he is introduced as the 2021 recipient.
“Since the start of his career, Andrew Whitworth has dedicated himself to making a lasting impact in his communities and his teams,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “During his five seasons in Los Angeles, he has dedicated his time and resources to social justice efforts that are working to tackle food insecurity, homelessness, and education inequities, including a $160,000 donation just this year as part of his ‘Big Whit For LA Families’ program. These are just a few examples of an extensive philanthropic legacy that Andrew has created. He is incredibly deserving of this prestigious award and we’re proud to name him this year’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.”
“Nationwide is pleased to congratulate Andrew on earning this elite honor for his exemplary service to community and commitment to driving positive change,” said Nationwide’s Chief Marketing Officer Ramon Jones. “Andrew’s extensive work across a broad range of causes that support kids and families has made an incredible impact and, as a company that shares this commitment to giving back, Nationwide is very proud to shine a light on his ongoing efforts to improve the lives of others.”
This was the fourth time Whitworth was nominated for the award over his 16-year NFL career. Whitworth remains a core pillar of a Rams offense – becoming the first 40-year-old offensive lineman to start an NFL game in nearly two decades. His 2020 season was shortened after suffering sprains in his left knee halfway through the season. Andrew rehabilitated the injury and made a postseason run. Before that injury, he started every crucial game for the Rams since joining the team in 2017 (aside from the season finale Coach McVay decided to rest starters.) A four-time Pro-Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Whitworth has over 239 career games with 235 starts.
Andrew’s work in the community addresses the often-unseen issues that continue to plague underserved communities in Los Angeles and beyond. Most recently, at the beginning of the 2021 season, Andrew launched his “Big Whit for LA Families” program and committed to donating $20,000 after each home game to repair homes in his home state of Louisiana and move Angelenos facing housing insecurity into affordable homes. In Los Angeles, Andrew works with non-profits to help individuals pay for rent and groceries, support down payments for homes, and furnish homes.
Every year, Andrew actively recruits teammates to join him and Make-A-Wish to help grant wishes for children battling life-threatening illnesses. Over the past three years, he has been a significant catalyst in raising more than $875,000 to grant wishes. For the holidays last year, Andrew and his family purchased wish list items for 53 families living in crisis motels and shelters. The Whitworths bought gifts for nearly 100 children and provided each of the 53 families with a $500 local grocery store gift card along with individually packaged holiday meals.
In the wake of civil unrest that struck the nation following the death of George Floyd, Andrew agreed to match all proceeds raised through the team’s Social Justice Fund throughout the 2020 season, which resulted in a $215,000 personal donation. Collectively, through his leadership, the social justice player fund provided $750,000 to 25 social justice non-profits. In March 2020, Andrew made a $250,000 donation to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to kick off the team’s virtual Te’LA’thon for Los Angeles and support COVID-19 response efforts. Andrew’s contribution financed a total of 1 million meals that were distributed to Angelenos in need. Andrew has also funded STEAM Labs at elementary and middle schools to help close the technology gap for low-income students and provide them opportunities to achieve upward mobility.
From 2017 – 2019, Andrew purchased 50 tickets for every Rams home game and donated them to local charities and schools. During the 2021 season, he continued this tradition and purchased game tickets for community members who otherwise might not have had an opportunity to experience the thrill of an NFL game at SoFi Stadium. Aside from his efforts in Los Angeles, Andrew was also a community steward in Cincinnati during his time with the Bengals. Before joining the Rams, Andrew started The Big Whit 77 Foundation, which impacts the lives of youth and families in his home state of Louisiana. One of the foundation’s programs, Whit’s Warriors, offers financial assistance to high school seniors in Louisiana. The program has awarded $400,000 in scholarships and school supplies.
Whitworth will receive a donation of $250,000, which will go to a charity of his choice. All other 31 nominees will receive a donation of $40,000 in their name to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.