TAMPA, FL. – The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. The award was established in 1970. It was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton.
Each team nominates one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community.
Representing the best of the NFL’s commitment to philanthropy and community impact, 32 players are selected as their team’s Man of the Year and become eligible to win the national award.
The winner of the award each year receives a $250,000 donated to the winner’s charity of choice. All other 31 nominees receive up to $40,000 donated to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Since being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014, Mike Evans has established himself as one of the most elite and consistent wide receivers in the NFL. He is the only player in NFL history to start his career with seven consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, a record he is on pace to extend in 2021.
The three-time Pro Bowler is the youngest receiver in NFL history to 7,000 career receiving yards (26 years, 81 days) and is the Buccaneers franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
Mike also holds the franchise record for most receiving yards (1,524) and touchdowns (13) in a season – adding to a list of accolades that will grow.
Demonstrates Dedication and Commitment to Community Efforts this Year
Mike has been a servant leader to the communities of Tampa Bay and his hometown of Galveston, Texas – something that has continued throughout 2020-2021.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the nation, Mike jumped into action, committing $100,000 from the Mike Evans Family Foundation to support United Way Suncoast and the Galveston community to aid the relief efforts. He continued his support by participating in the Twitch Steam Aid, a 12-hour gaming event that raised more than $2.7 million for the World Health Organization.
When the national elections became a focal point of the league’s social justice efforts, Mike committed to speaking out on the importance of voting, helping the team launch BUCSVOTE, a public service campaign promoting voter registration and participation.
Through a digital ad, video messages, and a radio announcement, Mike – who acknowledged he did not vote in the 2016 election – encouraged fans to participate in the process, reaffirming that in 2020, he became a voter.
As the past year has unfolded and communities have continued to adapt to constraints from the pandemic, his community outreach has carried on as well.
Last December, the Mike Evans Family Foundation carried out its annual “Catch for Christmas” holiday initiative – albeit with a virtual touch – surprising Tampa families in need of assistance with holiday gifts delivered by the team’s mascot and cheerleaders while the wide receiver connected with them over video. And in the summer of 2021, the foundation hosted its annual bowling event and golf tournament to raise funds for college scholarships and financial support for victims of domestic violence. These two causes are personal to the Evans family.
Following a year when stadium capacities were limited due to COVID-19, 2021 has allowed the Buccaneers, and some of the team’s most charitable players, an opportunity on game day to give back. Mike hosts two dozen guests from local youth organizations at every home game to enjoy a special experience at Raymond James Stadium. Through “Evans End Zone Club,” the wide receiver commits more than $30,000 in tickets to local charities to help make memories that will last a lifetime.
Demonstrates Dedication and Commitment to Community Efforts in Years Past
In 2020, Mike formed a special bond with Marco Solis, a patient at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Marco, a 23-year-old battling metastatic colorectal cancer, connected with Mike over zoom while hospitalized. The two immediately bonded – Marco’s positivity particularly touched the wide receiver, despite receiving the news just days earlier that his cancer was terminal. Mike sent a care package to Marco, including an unpublicized gift of $10,000 to help the family with their financial burdens, though sadly, Marco passed away that July.
When learning the news, Mike covered the expenses for Marco’s funeral and the entire family wore #13 Buccaneers t-shirts at the service in honor of the bond that Mike & Marco formed. Last season, Mike hosted the family at the Buccaneers-Packers game to greet them in person for the first time. During warm-ups, he took the field in specially designed cleats honoring Marco and his positivity in his final months battling the disease.
Mike isn’t alone in his efforts. His wife, Ashli, is right by his side – she loves interacting with kids and helping others as much as he does. They regularly visit community centers together and have met with victims of domestic violence at women’s shelters both in Tampa and Texas.
As has become evident over the years, lending support to those in need is not just a trend for Mike – it is the norm. He raised money for victims of the Jacksonville Landing shooting; covered funeral costs for a Florida family that received just $4 from the state following a wrongful death suit; provided financial support for a former classmate who suffered an accidental gunshot wound on Easter and has begun covering legal fees of individuals who are incarcerated for minor crimes, like traffic citations, because they cannot afford to pay them. Mike got involved in that initiative after a meeting with the NFL Player’s Coalition and former NFL star Anquan Boldin; the money towards this effort comes directly out of his pocket.
Demonstrates Consistency in Positive Character and Models a Lifestyle of Giving Back
Ask anyone in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers locker room which player epitomizes excellence, overcoming adversity, a pay-it-forward mentality, and remaining humble along the way. Chances are they’ll respond with the same name: Mike Evans. Competitive in his craft and always caring in how he treats colleagues and fans alike, Mike is one of the most respected individuals in the Buccaneers organization. He stays true to his values and is a family man – a tremendous father, a loving husband, and someone who represents the best of the team and the National Football League.
Mike would not be the first to tell these stories – his lack of self-promotion is admirable and authentic – and he is a man of character and integrity who continues to serve the league, his teammates, and the Tampa Bay community proudly.
Mike’s No. 1 passion when giving back is to uplift youth facing challenges at home and in school. The Mike Evans Family Foundation provides college scholarships for students and provides support for families facing domestic violence. This issue has significantly impacted the lives of Mike and his wife, Ashli.
Fans are encouraged to post on Twitter using #WPMOYChallenge followed by the nominee’s last name and/or his Twitter handle between December 7th and January 17th.
Android Users, Click Here To Download The Free Press App And Never Miss A Story. It’s Free And Coming To Apple Users Soon.