The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award has become the highest honor the NFL can bestow upon a player. Named for the Chicago Bears legendary running back and famed humanitarian, it is presented each year at the Super Bowl to a great player who is also a great force for good in his community. The list of honorees is filled with distinguished players who were the best of the best, in and outside the lines, including Peyton Manning, Larry Fitzgerald, JJ Watt, Drew Brees and former Jaguars defensive linemen Calais Campbell who won the award in 2019.
Myles Jack is the Jaguars 2022 nominee. With a heart to give back to the next generation, Jack has dedicated his time, talents and resources to the Jacksonville community. He has placed an emphasis on the importance of youth education through his annual Back to School event, which provides 120-plus kids with school supplies, backpacks, new clothing, shoes and Jaguars giveaways to support their return to school. Each school year, Jack also awards two $4,000 scholarships to students at Edward Waters University to assist with books and tuition.
Through Jack's donation of $10,000 to JEA in 2019, he assisted many Jacksonville residents with keeping their water and lights running. Each holiday season, Jack also hosts a shopping spree for underserved children to give them an opportunity to purchase Christmas gifts for their families. With COVID-19 still affecting many families, Jack provided a local youth football team and their families with Publix and Academy Sports gift cards to help with groceries and other necessities.
His heart for north Florida is already big and it will only continue to grow. Jack's nomination has earned $50,000 for him to distribute among his charitable endeavors, and should he be named the 2022 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, a $250,000 donation. There are obviously going to be plenty of places for him to leverage those dollars for folks who need the help.
But, it's the two Super Bowl tickets that come with the nomination that might have been the most rewarding to Jack who wasted little time in sharing them with John Marcus. Marcus' story is well known in Jacksonville as one of turning tragedy into triumph after a 2003 car injury left him in a wheelchair while still in high school.
"He asked me after the last game if I wanted to go to the Super Bowl," Marcus said. "He didn't tell me he was sending me, he just said alright. Then his mom called and told me I was going, and I started to cry, I don't think I've stopped since. I'm really excited and really grateful."
Marcus could easily have let his accident derail his life but instead set out on a new path. He started visiting schools, sharing his story and reaching out to inspire others to find their way through tough times. He's been a force for good in Jacksonville for almost two decades and Jack thought it was time to do something good for Marcus.
"I met Myles a few years ago at an event I was doing," recalled Marcus. "He was so real, so genuine. I wasn't surprised at all when the Jaguars made him their Walter Payton Man of the Year. He's always giving back to the community; he knows what's right."
It turns out the two men took turns giving to each other. Marcus made a point to invite him to dinner or a high school football game where Jack could escape from the high-profile life he leads as an NFL player and just be himself. It was in those moments that Marcus got to know Jack on a level that most folks don't and it's where his character stood tall.
"Me and him (Jack) we just talked about football and life," said Marcus. "It was really important for both of us to be able to relax and let go of what was going on in our lives. He texts me after every game and we get to talk about what's going on. I'm thankful that we've stayed in touch and yes, he's become a real friend, someone I know I can count on if I need him."
Marcus describes himself as a huge Jaguars fan and of course would love to see them play in the Super Bowl. That won't happen next month in Los Angeles, but he will enjoy the trip and his chance to see SoFi Stadium which is the crown jewel of NFL facilities.
"A while back I picked the Bills and the Buccaneers to play in the Super Bowl and that's still a possibility," he said with a laugh. "Someday I hope to see my team play for a championship."
Hopefully, his buddy, No. 44, will be in the middle