Russell Wilson didn’t get his first MVP vote when the NFL announced its season awards Saturday night.
But Wilson got an honor he may value even more, taking the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award during the league’s official awards ceremony.
Wilson is only the second Seahawk to win the award. Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent won it in 1988. Wilson won the trophy after being nominated for the second time. He was also nominated in 2014.
In his acceptance speech, Wilson first referenced his father, Harrison, who died of complications of diabetes in 2010.
“Dad, I know one of your favorite athletes of all time was Walter Payton,” Wilson said. “The player he was, but more importantly the man he was, the leader, the giver, the person. Man, Dad, I wish you were here for this award. This moment. Dad, I can remember you telling me in the car one day, ‘Son, love changes things.’ Well, Dad, you were right. I wish you were here to tell the world that in the toughest of times. 2020 was the most difficult times in history.”
Wilson was honored for a variety of off-field and charitable activities that include visits every Tuesday during the regular season to Seattle Children’s hospital, which he continued this year virtually, as well as his Why Not You Foundation donating over $9 million to Strong Against Cancer to fund lifesaving immunotherapy treatment since 2014.
Wilson has often said one reason he began visiting Seattle Children’s hospital was the influence of his mother, Tammy, who was an emergency room nurse while he was growing up in Richmond, Virginia.
Wilson and the Why Not You Foundation are also founding partners of United Way’s Ride United Last Mile campaign, which has resulted in 211,000 completed deliveries (2,414,321 meals) nationwide and 28,759 deliveries (860,000 meals) across King County.
Wilson and his wife, Ciara, this year also embarked on several COVID-19 pandemic-related endeavors.
Specifically, they donated one million meals to Feeding America and Food Lifeline, then partnered with the aviation company Wheels Up to launch the Meals Up campaign, which raised the equivalent of more than 50 million meals.
“We are stronger together than we are alone…” Wilson said. “To the young boy or girl who has a dream … who wants to make a difference … remember: Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
“Love changes things.”
One player from each team is nominated for the award, which was first established in 1970 and was renamed after Payton, a Hall of Famer with the Chicago Bears, in 1999.
For winning, Wilson will receive a $250,000 donation to a charity of his choice.
Some of the families Wilson has visited at Seattle Children’s this week released a video thanking Wilson for his efforts and wishing him good luck in winning the award — Wilson is estimated to have visited at least 600 patients in his nine years with the team.
“We’re incredibly thankful for everything he has done for our patients and families throughout the years,’’ Seattle Children’s said in a release. “Even during the pandemic, he still takes time to visit children in the hospital through Zoom.”
Among other endeavors, in 2018, the WNYF partnered with the Seattle Symphony, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to raise over $1.4 million to create access and opportunity to the arts for children in the community.
Also this year, Wilson and his foundation announced their latest efforts toward providing quality education to underserved communities and revealed the first-ever Why Not You Academy, a tuition-free public charter school that is set to open next fall.
During the 2020 election campaign, Wilson also joined the I Am A Voter (IAAV) organization encouraging the registration of voters nationwide.