CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward has been named the team’s nominee for the 2021 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, given to recognize NFL players for the performance on the field and their dedication to the community.
Ward joins 31 other nominees, one from each team, in being nominated for the award. For his nomination, Ward will receive a $40,000 donation in his name to the charity of his choice.
The winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which will be announced during NFL Honors airing the week of Super Bowl LVI, will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice.
"What an honor it is to be named the Walter Payton Man of the Year for the Cleveland Browns," said Ward. "To be mentioned in the same sentence as Walter Payton is a blessing. It means a lot to be nominated and represent my team, and also to be among so many guys in this league who I respect and who have been doing this a lot longer than me. As a Cleveland native, it is a priority for me to give back to my community, and I hope I can make an impact in a lot of ways – not just in Northeast Ohio but everywhere. I have been fortunate enough with a great support system that helps keep me going on and off the field, and I am excited to see what is in store next."
On the field, Ward has been a lockdown defender, earning the nickname "The Warden" for his coverage of even the most elite receivers. Ward has started 47 of his 48 games played since being drafted by the Browns with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, posting 172 tackles, 10 interceptions, two pick-sixes, 48 passes defended, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
This season, Ward was in the spotlight against the Cincinnati Bengals when he notched a 99-yard pick six. He's also had 29 tackles, a half-sack and three interceptions so far this season.
But it's his work off the field too that made him a nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Ward's foundation—the Make Them Know Your Name Foundation—provides training, education and resources to teach people how to respond when faced with a cardiac episode, while also providing AED and CPR kits to local schools and gyms. The foundation honors Ward's father, who died unexpectedly due to cardiac arrest in 2016.
Ward has used the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats campaign to help raise awareness for heart health and has held football camps and other fundraisers to support his foundation and help raise awareness for heart health.
In 2020, Ward donated $20,000 worth of new Nike equipment to the John Adams High School football program and launched a campaign during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, hearing stories of those in need and covering the largest monthly expense for 21 people.
The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award has been given annually since 1970. Past Browns nominees since 1999 include Myles Garrett, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Phil Dawson, Joe Thomas, Christian Kirksey and Jarvis Landry, among others.
Fans can help Ward give back to the community by voting on Twitter using the hashtag #WPMOYChallengeWard. The player whose personalized hashtag is used the most from Dec. 10 to Jan. 17 will receive a $25,0000 contribution to the charity of their choosing. The player with the second most votes will receive $10,000 for charity and the player with the third most votes will receive $5,000 for charity.
Each Monday, the league is also rewarding fans. Those who respond on Twitter each week with their favorite nominee will be eligible to be randomly selected to win a $100 NFL Shop gift card, as well as a $2,500 donation to their favorite nominee's charity.
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