Former Longhorns Michael Huff and Derrick Johnson have been nominated by their respective NFL teams for the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The Award honors a player for his community, volunteer and charity work. One player from each NFL team is chosen for a local award and nominated for the national award. Huff has been nominated by the Oakland Raiders, while Johnson has been nominated by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Huff was the seventh overall selection by the Raiders in 2006 after a celebratedcareer at The University of Texas that saw him lead the Longhorns to the 2005 National Championship and earn the Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the top college defensive back. He immediately became a starter for the Raiders as a rookie and went on to earn second-team All-Pro honors in 2010. Huff has been a valuable, versatile performer for the Raiders, starting at both safety spots, and this year moving to cornerback when needed at that position.
Off the field, Huff has been just as versatile and has been a role model through his community work. He has teamed up with local and national organizations and has been outstanding in lending his time and efforts to community service activities.
Huff volunteered his time with the United Way “Team NFL” Day of Action last summer, joining college-educated, civic-minded NFL players from teams across the league to encourage and recruit volunteerism. For the past several years, Huff hasbeen an advocate and spokesperson for the Raiders “Play 60” campaign, where he speaks to elementary students about living a healthy lifestyle and getting them active by stretching, running and playing football.
In addition, Huff engaged with local residents when the Raiders and Chipotle teamed up for a Raider Fan Appreciation Night when he made burritos and signed autographs for hundreds of fans. Huff has used social media to connect with the community, giving away 12 sets of tickets via Twitter to a Raiders game.
Huff was involved in the inauguration of the refurbished physical education facilities at Roosevelt Middle School in Oakland, made possible by the Keep Gym in School program and led students through fitness tests and football-inspired drills during an on-field minicamp. He also teamed with Nickelodeon to promote healthy lifestyles forchildren and visited students at Treeview Elementary School in the Bay Area, teaching them the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle.
Johnson was selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the KansasCity Chiefs after a stellarcareer at UT, where he won the Nagurski Trophy (nation's top defensive player) and the Butkus Award (nation's top LB).
In his eighthseason with the Chiefs, Johnson earned his second-consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl following the 2012 season, finishing with 125 tackles (110 solo) to pace the team for the third-straight season. In 2011, he was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after setting a franchise record with 179 tackles (131 solo). That same year, Johnson was the recipient of the Derrick Thomas Award as the Chiefs Most Valuable Player, as voted on by teammates. Johnson ranks fifth in team history with 874 tackles and is just the sixth player in Chiefs annals to reach the 800-tackle plateau.
Johnson has committed himself to both his on-the-field work, as well as his off-the-field efforts to help those in need, especially youth. His “Defend the Dream Foundation” was established to help make a difference in the lives of under-served children. To help reach those individuals, Johnson partnered with the United Way this year on its “Team NFL” campaign, striving to cut the country’s high school dropout rate in half by 2018. Johnson, along with other professional athletes, recruits volunteers in hopes of providing students with a support network of ample tutors. Through this initiative, he has providedincentives such as purchasing game tickets and offering memorabilia to helprecruit pledges to join him in helping keep kids in school.
“Being nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award is a great honor,” Johnson said. “While we are all concerned about what happens between the lines on Sunday as football players, being a good citizen and ambassador to the community is the part of the job that doesn’t get as much attention or recognition, but remains very important to me and many players on this team and around the league. It’s very humbling to be nominated to represent the Kansas City Chiefs for this prestigious award.”
Johnson has also worked with the local chapter of the National Kidney Foundation. Johnson’s father, Wayne, passed away from complications due to diabetes. As a result, Derrick has served as a mouthpiece for the National Kidney Foundation in public service messages and awareness programs, stressing the importance of taking care of one’s body.
His father also serves as the inspiration for Derrick’s work with the Armed Forces. Wayne Johnson earned a Navy Accommodation Medal for his acts of heroism during the Vietnam War. In recognition of his father’s efforts, Derrick spends his time supporting many military-backed initiatives. This past spring, Johnsonvisited Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., where he conversed with soldiers and their families before joining teammates in hosting a Chiefs "Play 60" clinic for the base’s youth. He also visited the local VA Medical Center to boost the spirits of veterans receiving treatment there and has raised funds for Ft. Riley’s Wounded Warriors Transition Battalion.
Upon his arrival in Kansas City as a rookie in 2005, Johnson initially spearheaded the construction of three separate playgrounds. As a result, children from a trio of United Way agencies received new play structures. Prior to each build, Johnson helped the organization’s children design their dream playground. Then, on build day, he rolled up his sleeves and joined hundreds of volunteers toconstruct each play facility.
Throughout his career in Kansas City, Johnson has also taken an active role with Lift Up America’s Kansas City food distribution. In seven of his eight seasons in the city, Johnson has asked teammates to join him and Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt in supporting more than 60 area food banks annually. In those years, Johnson and his teammates have loaded more than 250,000 pounds of food, helping feed some of the area’s most needy.
The Man of the Year’s designated charity receives a $25,000 donation in his name. Charities selected by the 32 team finalists each receive a $1,000 donation. The four finalists for the award also receive an additional $5,000. The top three finalists will be announced later this month with the winner announced during Super Bowl weekend.