The Jacksonville Jaguars have nominated sixth-year tight end and two-time Pro Bowler Julius Thomas for The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Presented by Nationwide.
Thomas started his charitable group, Reading Equates to Success, in January 2013. Growing up in Stockton, Calif., Julius thought that becoming a professional athlete was one of the best ways to create a successful life for himself. During his upbringing, he learned that the essential building block to success on the field is proficiency off of it. The first three years of schooling are a critical time for children to learn the basic skills needed to successfully advance in school and tackle a more advanced curriculum. Creating a solution to help children during those important years is very important to Julius. He was able to launch and participate in multiple book drives, reading programs and built out initiatives with the support of St. Vincent's Medical Center and Florida Blue.
Through his initiatives, Julius was able to help donate 20,000 books, a monthly reading initiatives for 200 families and build two brand new reading nooks at Episcopal Children's Service Early Learning Centers. While Julius's programs have positively impacted thousands of families in Jacksonville, Julius is focused on the long term success of his reading program in Duval County. The goal is to expand his "Read to Achieve" program year-over-year throughout the Duval County school district. Most recently, Thomas helped open up a new reading nook at Episcopal Children's Services, as part of his "Promoting Children's Literacy in the Community" program. Thomas continues to advocate for increased access to books and support for literacy, education and development.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes a player for his excellence on and off the field and is among the league's most prestigious awards.
"We're proud to honor these outstanding men who represent the NFL's best on and off the field," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "Our players have a unique platform to make a difference far beyond the field of play. We salute these individuals who are exemplary in their commitment to making a positive impact in communities across the globe through their dedicated service and philanthropic efforts."
Three of the nominees will be selected as finalists for the award, named for Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton, who died in 1999. Finalists will be announced in January 2017. The winner will be announced in Houston at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on February 4, the night before Super Bowl LI, from 8-10 p.m. (ET and PT) on FOX.