DETROIT (Feb. 3, 2006) -- Peyton Manning, quarterback for the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts, was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
Connie Payton, Walter Payton's wife, presented Manning with his award at a press conference and NFL vice president of player and employee development and Hall of Fame member Michael Haynes made the announcement. In addition, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue saluted Manning's honor during his annual Super Bowl news conference.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, named after the legendary Chicago Bears running back who died in 1999, is the only league award that recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
Manning joins an esteemed list of past winners that includes 15 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Recent winners include Warrick Dunn of the Atlanta Falcons (2004), Will Shields of the Kansas City Chiefs (2003), Troy Vincent of the Buffalo Bills (2002), Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers (2000), and co-winners in 2001 Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jim Flanigan formerly of the Chicago Bears.
Manning, who has won the past two passing titles, participates in community service with the same fervor he employs on the field. He made a huge impact on the people of his native Louisiana last September following Hurricane Katrina. Peyton and younger brother Eli, the New York Giants quarterback, secured a plane, helped fill it with 30,000 pounds of relief supplies and flew to Louisiana a week after the hurricane to make the delivery.
"The ability to work with and help people in the community is one of the more rewarding opportunities we have as NFL players, which is why this is one of the most meaningful honors I have ever received," said Peyton Manning. "Knowing everything that Walter Payton stood for makes the award that much more special."
Through his "PeyBack Foundation," Manning has had the opportunity to positively affect thousands of people in the Indianapolis community. For the past two years, the PeyBack Foundation has worked with Child Advocates, a national nonprofit which represents the best interests of abused and neglected children, on a year-round program to expose 20 middle school students to a variety of educational, cultural and community-oriented activities. Manning also teamed with Child Advocates to host its seventh-annual flag football game at the Union Federal Football Center.
Each year, Manning hosts the "PeyBack Classic," which allows local high school teams the opportunity to play on the Colts' home field at the RCA Dome. The "PeyBack Bowl" bowling fundraiser raised more than $260,000 for the foundation last year. The PeyBack Foundation funds various programs in Indiana, Louisiana and Tennessee and has distributed more than $1 million in grants since its inception in 1999.
"Peyton is a person who understands his responsibility not only as a professional football player, but as a man and community servant," said Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts. "Every sports team -- and every professional athlete -- should take a page from his book. We are all in a position to step up and be leaders in philanthropy."
Manning has also received recognition for his contributions to the "True Heroes" program at the St. Vincent Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, his annual visits with more than 1,000 children to The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, and his yearly Thanksgiving work with various community agencies and schools.
The accomplishments of the 32 finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award -- one from each NFL team -- are reviewed by a blue-ribbon panel, which includes Commissioner Tagliabue, Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King, football greats Frank Gifford, Jack Kemp, 2004 winner and current Atlanta Falcons star Warrick Dunn and Connie Payton.
Manning will receive the distinctive Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, Daniel Schwartz. In addition, Manning's favorite charity will receive a $25,000 donation in his name.