FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - For his dedication to volunteerism and spreading smiles across the community through his contagious, convivial character, Rob Gronkowski has been named the New England Patriots nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, presented by Nationwide. Gronkowski was among the 32 players announced by the National Football League who have been named their respective team's Man of the Year, representing the best of the NFL's commitment to philanthropy and community impact. With the Man of the Year honor comes eligibility to win the league-wide award, named for the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton.
Of the 32 nominees, three will be selected as finalists for the award to be announced in January 2017. The winner will be announced in Houston, the site of Super Bowl LI, at the sixth annual NFL Honors award special, a two-hour primetime show to air nationally on February 4, from 8-10 p.m. (ET and PT) on FOX.
The dominating presence Gronkowski has had on the playing field since joining the Patriots organization in 2010 has been echoed in the way he's positively impacted the local community off the field as well.
"Rob is a true champion with unique skills that set him apart from so many others, both on and off the field," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "In the seven seasons I have known Rob, I have never known him to have a bad day. He is a genuinely good-natured, fun-loving individual whose energy and passion for the game is equaled for the energy and positive impact he makes in our communities. He is engaging with fans of all ages. His gregarious personality makes him one of our greatest ambassadors, especially when spreading cheer to children at local hospitals or schools."
Gronkowski has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to participating in the many programs put on by the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation and has done so with genuine excitement and enthusiasm. In an effort to promote the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, the seven-year veteran has visited dozens of schools across New England to lead students through a Play 60 ultimate gym class and has even joined his teammates in building new playgrounds to provide children in underserved communities with safe places to play. As a way to extend those efforts, Gronkowski created the Gronk Nation Youth foundation to help youth stay actively involved in both school and sports while providing them with resources they need to follow their dreams.
During the holiday season, the 6-foot-7 tight end has done everything from taking on the role of Santa Claus and dressing up like an elf to deliver presents to patients at Boston Children's Hospital, to taking teenagers from local homeless shelter programs on a holiday shopping spree, but his dedication to the community lasts year round.
Gronkowski has teamed up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to host some of his biggest fans at Gillette Stadium as they battle life-threatening illnesses. He also joins hands with One Mission, a Massachusetts-based pediatric cancer foundation, to shave his head each spring to raise money for children and adolescents who have been diagnosed with the disease.
The winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award will receive $500,000 in his name for a charity of his choice while the two finalists will each receive a $125,000 donation and the additional 29 team winners will receive $50,000 for their chosen charities.
To further celebrate and encourage fan support of the 32 team Man of the Year nominees, Nationwide, the presenting sponsor of the award, is executing the second Walter Payton Man of the Year Charity Challenge. Fans are encouraged to post on social media using their favorite nominee's unique challenge hashtag now through January 8. The nominee who receives the most hashtag mentions will win an additional $25,000 donation to his charity of choice from Nationwide.
Patriots fans can support Gronkowski by tweeting with the hashtag #GronkowskiWPMOYChallenge to help him earn an additional donation to the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation.