It’s no surprise that NFL players have become more active off the field in recent years. Whether it’s because of the political unrest in our country or the rise in social activism spearheaded by Colin Kaepernick, there has been a significant uptick in community engagement from all teams up and down the roster. The most prestigious award an NFL player can receive off the field is the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. It recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
Chris Long received the 2019 award from JJ Watt, last year’s recipient, at NFL Honors in Atlanta. He said, “I am honored to be named the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and to join the long line of men who have received this prestigious honor. While I am officially accepting this award, we would not be able to accomplish our goals without the support and participation of countless other individuals. I am humbled by the support we have received from my peers who have donated to our various matching-campaigns, the commitment and perseverance displayed by the veterans who have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with me each year, and the generosity of our fans who have made vital contributions to our foundation over the years.” He continued, “I am incredibly thankful that football has provided me with a platform to give back and I am proud that so many of my colleagues have decided to use this stage to create positive and impactful change in our local communities and around the world."
According to the NFL and the Chris Long Foundation, his primary service initiative is rooted through the Chris Long Foundation, which aims to fulfill three philanthropic causes: clean water, military appreciation and youth education.
Long's main initiative is Waterboys, which according to its site is “a program that puts professional athletes and sports fans on the same team in pursuit of bringing life-sustaining drinking water to communities in need.” Long had a goal of building 32 clean water wells, one for each NFL team. By February of 2018, that goal was met. Now, Long has set a goal of providing clean water to one million people. To date, Waterboys has raised more than $3 million and has funded 55 wells that will provide water to 211,000 people according to the league offices.