Feb. 4, 2005
The National Football League today announced that Warrick Dunn, running back for the NFC South Division Champion Atlanta Falcons, was named the 2004 Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Connie Payton, Walter Payton’s wife presented Dunn with his award this morning at a press conference in Jacksonville after 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 Dunn’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.
Dunn, who is the first Falcons player to receive the honor, joins an esteemed list of past winners that includes 12 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Recent winners include 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. (complete list of winners below).
Dunn, who posted his 3rd career 1,000 yard season, participates in community service with the same fervor he employs on the field. Through his “Warrick Dunn Foundation,” Dunn has had the opportunity to positively affect thousands of people in the communities that have shaped his life.
Through his “Homes for the Holidays” program, Dunn helps single mothers become first-time homeowners by making the down payments on new fully-furnished homes. To date, Dunn’s program has assisted 52 single mothers and profoundly touched the lives of 135 children and dependents in Atlanta, Tampa and Baton Rouge. Dunn launched the program during his rookie season in 1997, when he made the down payments on four homes in Tampa. His motivation for the program stems from the memory of his mother, Betty Smothers, a Baton Rouge police officer and single parent. She was killed in the line of duty in 1993, before she could ever realize her dream of buying her own home.
“My mom inspired me to do what she did in her life – help others,” said Dunn. “People say I’m giving back, but I think I’m getting a lot more than what I put in. We can all make the world a little better by doing just a little bit with whatever we have to offer. ”
For eight years, Dunn, through “Homes for the Holidays,” has collaborated with non-profit organizations that manage first-time homeownership program such as Habitat for Humanity and United Way.
“Warrick is a person who understands his responsibility not only as a professional football player, but as a man and community servant,” said Arthur M. Blank, owner & CEO of the Atlanta Falcons. “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.”
Warrick has also received recognition for his contributions off-the-field from organizations such as the Giants Step Award in Civic Leadership, the John H. Macy Award for Individual Leadership from The National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Center for Black Philanthropy, Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Awards, and the NFL Extra Effort Award. In 2001, he was selected as one of Oprah Winfrey’s “Angels” made the list of 101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports by Sports Illustrated in 2003 and has been named The Sporting News’ Top 75 Good Guys in Sports three times.
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, 2002 winner and current Buffalo Bills star Troy Vincent and Connie Payton.
Dunn will receive the distinctive Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, Daniel Schwartz. In addition, Dunn’s favorite charity will receive a $25,000 donation in his name.
WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR WINNERS
2004 Warrick Dunn, Running Back – Atlanta Falcons*
2003 Will Shields, Guard – Kansas City Chiefs
2002 Troy Vincent, Cornerback – Philadelphia Eagles
2001 Jerome Bettis, Running Back – Pittsburgh Steelers
2000 Derrick Brooks (Tampa)* and Jim Flanigan (Chicago)
1999 Cris Carter, Wide Receiver – Minnesota Vikings
1998 Dan Marino, Quarterback – Miami Dolphins
1997 Troy Aikman, Quarterback – Dallas Cowboys
1996 Darrell Green, Cornerback – Washington Redskins
1995 Boomer Esiason, Quarterback – New York Jets
1994 Junior Seau, Linebacker – San Diego Chargers
1993 Derrick Thomas, Linebacker – Kansas City Chiefs
1992 John Elway, Quarterback – Denver Broncos
1991 Anthony Munoz, Tackle – Cincinnati Bengals
1990 Mike Singletary, Linebacker – Chicago Bears
1989 Warren Moon, Quarterback – Houston Oilers
1988 Steve Largent, Wide Receiver – Seattle Seahawks
1987 Dave Duerson, Safety – Chicago Bears
1986 Reggie Williams, Linebacker – Cincinnati Bengals
1985 Dwight Stephenson, Center – Miami Dolphins
1984 Marty Lyons, Tackle – New York Jets
1983 Rolf Benirschke, Kicker – San Diego Chargers
1982 Joe Theismann, Quarterback – Washington Redskins
1981 Lynn Swann, Wide Receiver – Pittsburgh Steelers
1980 Harold Carmichael, Wide Receiver – Philadelphia Eagles
1979 Joe Greene, Defensive Lineman – Pittsburgh Steelers
1978 Roger Staubach, Quarterback – Dallas Cowboys
1977 Walter Payton, Running Back – Chicago Bears
1976 Franco Harris, Running Back – Pittsburgh Steelers
1975 Ken Anderson, Quarterback – Cincinnati Bengals
1974 George Blanda, Quarterback – Oakland Raiders
1973 Len Dawson, Quarterback – Kansas City Chiefs
1972 Willie Lanier, Linebacker – Kansas City Chiefs
1971 John Hadl, Quarterback – San Diego Chargers
1970 Johnny Unitas, Quarterback – Baltimore Colts
* – Denotes former Florida State Football Players
Courtesy of Atlanta Falcons.com