Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew was named the club's recipient of the 2009 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, the team announced today.
Jones-Drew has been an active participant in the Jacksonville community since joining the franchise in 2006. He established the Maurice Jones-Drew Foundation earlier this year to help youth-focused organizations. He hosted a football camp for youth each of the last three years in Jacksonville and has also held camps in his hometown of Antioch, Calif.
"I am honored, but this is not why I do what I do in the community," Jones-Drew said. "I take pride in my role as an NFL player and what that means on and off the field. It's important for me to set an example off the field with my actions and we have tried to do that through my foundation. Whether it's providing a hot meal or just shaking a hand, I try to do everything possible to put a smile on a child's face. I remember when I was in their shoes and I want to make sure they see the opportunities that exist for them."
Renamed in 1999 for the legendary Chicago Bears Pro Football Hall of Fame running back, the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award has been given annually since 1970 to recognize a player's off the field community service as well as his playing excellence.
Each team is responsible for selecting its local Man of the Year winner. The winner represents stellar performance both on the field and in the community. Jones-Drew along with the other 31 club winners will receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice. Jones-Drew designated the Sulzbacher Center in Jacksonville as his charity of choice. Four finalists will be announced during the postseason and will be invited to the Super Bowl in Miami, Florida with the winner announced during the week. Finalists will receive an additional $5,000 and the national winner will receive a $25,000 donation.
In June, Jones-Drew donated 100 sets of Reebok shoes, gloves and compression shirts to members of the Andrew Jackson High School varsity football team. He also distributed backpacks filled with school supplies in August to more than 200 area children following a training camp practice.
Jones-Drew also represented the Jaguars in the NFL-JC Penney Take a Player to School Program, and visited a second grade class at Hyde Park Elementary School. Most significantly, Maurice uses his position in the community to serve as spokesperson for the Jacksonville Commitment, a program that provides college scholarships to local colleges and universities.
Jones-Drew does not limit himself when it comes to giving back to the community. Through his partnership with Winn-Dixie he provided a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 50 families in November. In addition, he distributed Thanksgiving meals to more than 35 families from the St. Augustine Homeless Coalition and spent quality time with the children in the group. In 2008, he partnered with Lift Up America and Tyson Foods to distribute food to more than 50 local soup kitchens and pantries.
To support the local youth, he established a relationship with I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless, a place dear to his heart where he has hosted a children's Christmas Party for two straight years. Earlier this month he invited 70 children from the Sulzbacher's after-care program for a special shopping spree at Toys "R" Us which each child received a $100 gift certificate. He is also always involved with team-sponsored community events like Operation Blessing, Food Drive Kick-off, and the Jaguars annual golf tournament.