The Indianapolis Colts announced this morning that punter Pat McAfee as their 2014 Man of the Year. This honors him for both his on-field work but especially his work off-the-field, and it nominates him for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is the highest distinction an NFL player can earn for off-the-field work. The 32 nominees (one for each team) will be narrowed down to three finalists, and then the winner announced at the NFL Honors in January the day before the Super Bowl. As such, the Man of the Year award is the highest distinction that a Colts' player can earn from the team for his off-field work.
McAfee has been arguably the best special teams player in football this year, averaging 47.2 yards per punt while tying his franchise record with 27 punts pinned inside the 20 yard line (with two games still to play). He also leads the NFL in touchbacks on kickoffs with 67 and in successful onside kicks with three (including one recovered by McAfee himself).
Off-the-field, McAfee has also been tremendous. He has been very involved in the Indianapolis community and has been very involved with a variety of charitable foundations and programs. He's been very supportive of our armed forces, and "the Pat McAfee Foundation" provides scholarship assistance to children of those serving in our armed forces. Just recently, he was named a semi-finalist for the NFL's Salute to Service Award. McAfee can be found supporting a number of different charities and programs put on by the team and his teammates, and he truly has become one of the most recognizable faces in the city (rare for a punter) and a fan favorite, both for his on-field performance but perhaps especially for his performance off-the-field.
"We talk about serving all the time, putting the team first, and serving. Pat embodies everything of what we call a Colt. He's a pillar guy," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who will present McAfee with a commemorative plaque and a football during his Wednesday press conference, said of McAfee. "Not only is he a great football player, but what he does off the field is tremendous. It's a great honor. It's one of the highest honors I think you can get in the National Football League. And to have the opportunity to be the Walter Payton Man of the Year at the end of the day is a testament to Pat's hard work. We're very, very proud of Pat and more proud of the stuff he gives back to this community and what he does outside of football. A great honor."
"It is an incredible honor to be named the Colts' Walter Payton Man of the Year," Pat McAfee said. "In the darkest of times, the most fulfilling thing in the world is finding the light. Although sometimes it's very difficult, if you're willing to look hard enough, you can find positives in every situation. There are so many moments that I've been lucky to be a part of. From helping vets with my friends at Wish For Our Heroes, to visiting with inspiring kids and young adults who are much tougher than I battling illnesses. From helping local high schools to random acts of kindness, they all hold a special place in my heart but the one that really opened my eyes was when the tornadoes hit some of our Indiana communities last year. It was an unfortunate series of events that caused plenty of heartache and damage for some citizens of our state, but if you looked hard enough you could see it as an opportunity. An opportunity for other Hoosiers to prove that no matter what the situation, no matter what the triumph, we will always have each other's back. Together we raised $40,000 in 48 hours for the victims. We couldn't fix everything that was lost, but it was at that moment, that I realized how incredibly lucky I am to be a member of this community. Indiana is filled with caring people and Hoosier Hospitality is real. I'm just trying to do my part. I am humbled, happy and excited to serve this state for years to come. There's never a wrong time, to do the right thing. Let's make the world a better place."
The award is named after NFL legend Walter Payton, who passed away in 1999. It is one of the highest honors a player can earn, and each of the 32 nominees receives a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice by the NFL, while the three finalists each receive an additional $5,000 donation, and then the winner receives an additional $20,000 donation.
"We admire and support the important work that these players and so many other NFL players are doing to serve their communities," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said of the award. "The NFL is filled with outstanding young men who help schools, shelters, and countless other organizations and good causes. We thank our players for recognizing the positive impact they can have in the lives of their fellow citizens and seizing that opportunity to make difference."
Congrats to Pat McAfee for being named the Colts' 2014 Man of the Year Award, an incredible honor and an incredibly well-deserved one too. Recent winners of the award for the Colts include safety Antoine Bethea (2013) and defensive end Cory Redding (2012), among others. Congrats to Pat McAfee!