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Wesley Woodyard Named Titans Walter Payton Man of Year

Posted Dec 7, 2017

Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard has been selected as the team's 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his impact in the community.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard has played 10 seasons in the National Football League, and his list of accomplishments is a long one.

Woodyard has been a captain for all 10 seasons. He’s played in nearly 150 games, and he’s closing in on 900 career tackles. He easily leads this year’s team in stops.

Yet he’s probably most proud of his most recent accomplishment: Woodyard is the 2017 Titans recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

Woodyard is now a finalist for the league-wide 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award that will be awarded during the upcoming Super Bowl week. This prestigious NFL award has been in existence since 1970 and it honors players who demonstrate outstanding balance in their lives between civic and professional responsibilities. In 1999, the NFL renamed the award after the late Walter Payton as a tribute to his greatness, both on and off the field.

“It’s a huge honor,” Woodyard said. “Any time you get a chance to be compared to a great guy like Walter Payton, it means the world to me. The groundwork he put down in the past, and showing guys what to do in the community, it still inspires people to this day.

“I love working in the community and I love trying to make a change with others. And I really feel like it is my purpose to be here, to make a difference in their world and make a difference in their lives.”

Woodyard, who joined the Titans in 2014 after playing his first six seasons with the Denver Broncos, has been a productive leader on the field in Tennessee.

This season, he leads the team with 139 tackles, and he also has three sacks. Woodyard has posted nine double-digit tackle totals in 12 games, including a whopping 20 tackles in the team’s win over the Ravens on November. He had 15 tackles in last week’s game against the Texans. In his career, Woodyard has racked up 867 stops, with 20.5 sacks and eight interceptions.

Along the way, Woodyard has also been a great example in the community.

As co-founder of the 16Ways Foundation, Woodyard has impacted the lives of countless at risk-youth.

At its core, the foundation is designed to encourage and empower youth, especially at-risk youth, to follow their dreams and succeed. As an undrafted free agent out of college at the University of Kentucky, Woodyard said he understands what it’s like to be told you’re not good enough. He also understands what it’s like to prove that anything is possible.

“I was raised on the saying that it takes a village to raise a child,” Woodyard said. “To me, that is how it is in the world. As long as you are trying to be a positive influence in a child’s life, then you are doing great work. I am always trying to help people, and trying to instill great values in them just like people did to me. And you never know where you are going to get that push and motivation from to push you over the top to be great in life.

“And that is something I try to do what I work with kids. That is my main goal: I want to show them that I am somebody that cares for them, and I believe in you.”

Through a strategic partnership with Scholastic and its Family and Community Engagement (FACE) program, 16Ways builds mini libraries – known as 16Chapters – in inner city areas.

Every summer, the foundation hosts free youth football and cheer camps. Guest NFL and college players, as well as high school coaches, reinforce hard work and practice as a means of accomplishing goals. The camp also includes anti-bullying and academic achievement messages.

Through their GYRLs program – an acronym for “giving yourself respect and love” – Woodyard is able to provide young girls with opportunities for positive experiences to develop self-esteem and awareness that will enable them to achieve their highest potential. As a dad to two girls, this message carries special significance for Woodyard.

The 16Ways Foundation Track Club is a mentor and training program for young athletes. The program has successfully participated in the AAU Junior Olympics each year since its inception.

In addition to his work with his own foundation, Woodyard has been a tireless advocate for the work of other non-profits, including the ALS Association and Second Harvest Food Bank.

For the second year in a row, Woodyard used the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats platform to raise awareness and funds for ALS. Woodyard’s aunt suffered from ALS leading up to her death, and Woodyard is close to former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014.

Woodyard also serves as the spokesperson for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee.

“Whatever we can do to try and change and help out the community, that’s what I want to do,” Woodyard said. “I am trying to change the world and I am blessed to have a great platform to do that with.”

The three finalists will be announced in January, with the winner announced during the annual NFL Honors show, airing the day before Super Bowl LII.

A $1 million donation will be made to the winner -- $500,000 donated to the winner’s charity of choice, and $500,000 will be donated in his name to the United Way’s Character Playbook program.

The other two finalists will receive $125,000 donated to their charity of choice, and $125,000 more donated in his name to Character Playbook.

The other 29 team winners will receive a $50,000 donation to the charity of their choice and an additional $50,000 donation to expand the NFL and Character Playbook program.

Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey was the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2016. Tight end Delanie Walker was the nominee in 2015.

“I’d like to give credit to guys like Jurrell and Delanie,” Woodyard said, “because they are an inspiration to a lot of guys on the team. All of us just want to do what we can to make a difference in the lives of others.”