Devin McCourty just might be 2014 NFL Man of the Year

The prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award presented by Nationwide is unique among NFL honors because it is the only award that recognizes a current NFL player for outstanding community service activities as well as excellence on the field. Established in 1970, the award was renamed in 1999 after the late Chicago Bears’ running back Walter Payton, who represented the very best of the NFL as an athlete on the field and as a role-model off of the field.

An elite panel of judges including Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, Connie Payton, Frank Gifford, Anthony Muñoz and the 2013 Payton Award recipient, Charles Tillman, will select the overall winner from the list of the 32 NFL team nominations.

The New England Patriots nominee for 2014 NFL Man of the Year is S Devin McCourty. For the past five years, Devin has been very active in the community donating countless hours to charitable foundations. He has also worked tirelessy with his identical twin brother, Jason in the fight against sickle cell anemia. Jason is a cornerback for the Tennessee Titans, and he is their nominee for 2014.

Past winners of this prestigious award have been famous players like Roger Staubach, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, George Blanda and John Elway. The nominee for the Green Bay Packers this year is QB Aaron Rodgers.

In 2013, CB Charles Tillman of the Chicago Bears was the winner of this prestigious award. Tillman's Cornerstone Foundation mission is to help improve the lives of critically and chronically ill children throughout Chicago. Tillman created the foundation after his second-youngest daughter was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.

Two years ago, it was Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten who was recognized for his outstanding charitable work. His foundation's work against domestic violence and to promote education in Texas and Tennessee made him a finalist for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2007 and won him the award in 2012.

In February 1999, Walter Payton revealed that he was suffering from a rare liver disease known as primary sclerosing cholangitis. His work in highlighting greater awareness of the need for organ donations are widely credited with bringing national attention to the problem.

Walter did not use his status as a famous athlete to move up the organ donor list. Following a courageous battle, Payton died on Nov. 1, 1999 at the age of 45.

On two occasions, the panel has chosen dual winners for the award. In 2006, it was Ladainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees who shared the award. In 2000, multiple winners were Derrick Brooks and Jim Flanigan.

The winner will be announced during the "4th Annual NFL Honors," awards show Saturday, January 31, from 9-11 p.m. ET on NBC. The following day is Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, AZ. Devin McCourty might just make it a "daily double." I don't think Devin would mind sharing the award with his brother, either.

Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire.

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