Minnesota Vikings safety MADIEU WILLIAMS was named the 2010 WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR, it was announced today. Demonstrating his commitment to the community, Williams is in the Persian Gulf on a goodwill tour, having made an earlier commitment to visit with U.S. service members during Super Bowl Week.
The announcement was made on-field at Cowboys Stadium live on FOX before kick off of Super Bowl XLV. JARRETT and BRITTNEY PAYTON, the late Walter Payton’s children, honored Williams in absentia with the only league recognition that acknowledges a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
"It is a tremendous honor to win this award named after Walter Payton, one of the greatest men to ever play in the National Football League," said Williams, surrounded by service members in Iraq. "I'm sorry I couldn't be there to accept the award, but it's an even greater honor to be here with the 4th Infantry Division and Task Force Iron Horse."
Williams’ charitable works have achieved local, national and global impact. Locally, he works with the North Community YMCA, United Way and Harvest Prep/Seed Academy and provides season tickets for the kids in his "Dieu’s Crew" program. Williams also hosted a free football camp in Maryland, where he was raised, this past summer and continues to support the Cincinnati area after a stint playing for the Bengals. Williams made a $2 million donation to create the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health at the University of Maryland, where he attended college. The center will address public health issues in Prince George’s County and Sierra Leone, where Williams was born. He has already built a primary school in the African nation and is now building a secondary school there as well. His foundation sponsored a mission to Sierra Leone that brought American teachers, surgeons and dentists to help educate the teachers at his school, give free dental cleanings to all of the students and provide free surgeries.
Williams’ stabilizing ability on the Vikings defensive backfield has helped the club rank in the top 10 in NFL defenses each of his three seasons in Minnesota. The 2010 season marked a career-high for Williams as he notched 96 tackles, fifth-best on the team. He also helped the Vikings win back-to-back NFC North titles in 2008 and 2009. During the Vikings run to the NFC Championship game in 2009, Williams started every game. A full-time starter since he arrived in Minnesota, Williams has opened 38 of the 39 games he has played for the Vikings and all three playoff games he has been part of. For his career, he has played in 88 games with 83 starts.
Williams joins an esteemed list of winners of the annual award, including 17 Pro Football Hall of Famers. Recent winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award include BRIAN WATERS of the Kansas City Chiefs (2009), former Arizona Cardinals quarterback KURT WARNER (2008) and JASON TAYLOR, then of the Miami Dolphins (2007).
The three finalists were chosen by a blue-ribbon panel from among the 32 team nominees for the award, all of whom receive a $1,000 donation from NFL Charities to the charity of their choice. The three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name. The selection panel is comprised of NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL, former NFL Commissioner PAUL TAGLIABUE, CONNIE PAYTON, Pro Football Hall of Fame members FRANK GIFFORD and ANTHONY MUÑOZ, Giants great and Executive Director of the NFL Alumni Association GEORGE MARTIN, 2009 winner BRIAN WATERS and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive the Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, DANIEL SCHWARTZ. In addition, the player’s favorite charity will receive a $20,000 donation in his name.
NOTE: The first winner of the 'NFL Man of the Year Award?' Baltimore Colts great Johnny Unitas!