IRVING, Texas – Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is among the three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
Witten, Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Browns lineman Joe Thomas made the finalists list out of 32 nominees for the only league award that recognizes a player's community service and playing excellence.
All 32 nominees receive a $1,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice, while the three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name.
The Walter Payton Man of the Year will be announced in New Orleans on Super Bowl weekend during the second annual NFL Honors show, a two-hour primetime awards special airing nationally on Feb. 2 from 8-10 p.m. CT. The winner will receive an additional $20,000 donation to his favorite charity and a Gladiator statue.
Witten set the NFL single season record for receptions by a tight end this season with 110 catches, while also surpassing Michael Irvin for the Cowboys' all-time receptions record. Witten's 806 career catches rank No. 3 among all tight ends in NFL history.
Witten was named to another Pro Bowl this season after starting the year slowly coming off a spleen injury. He wasn't expected to start in the opener, but gritted it out and didn't miss a game.
Since becoming a Cowboy in 2003, Witten has been actively involved with many non-profit organizations helping a wide-range of people from all demographics. He serves as the Cowboys' spokesman for NFL PLAY 60 to bring awareness to youth health initiatives, and he supports youth football and hosts a free football camp for 1,200 kids in his hometown.
Through the Jason Witten SCORE Foundation (JWSF), he's funded several building projects in Texas and his native Tennessee. The initiative places full-time, trained male mentors in battered women's shelters throughout Texas. The mentors demonstrate positive male behavior to the children in these shelters in an effort to break the cycle of violence that plagues families affected by abuse. The foundation's newest domestic violence prevention program, "Coaching Boys Into Men," trains high school coaches to educate their players on the dangers of dating violence.
The Wittens make giving back a family affair and involve their young children both in the team's early Thanksgiving Day meal at The Salvation Army and underwrite the Dallas Cowboys Women's Association's Christmas of Giving benefiting families from The Family Place.
Two Cowboys players have won the award previously, both of them quarterbacks. Roger Staubach won the award in 1978 and Troy Aikman took home the honor in 1997.
The selection panel for the award is comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, 2011 winner Matt Birk and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.