The Los Angeles Rams announced today Andrew Whitworth as its nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award presented by Nationwide. Considered one of the league's most prestigious honors, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. Each of the league's 32 nominees were announced today.
As the only starting tackle in the NFL at the age of 40, Andrew Whitworth continues to marvel the NFL community with his play on the field and his unique ability to galvanize teammates and others to address issues plaguing under-resourced communities in Los Angeles. Since joining the Rams in 2017, Whitworth has been a leader on and off the field and active in a variety of charitable efforts.
Most recently at the beginning of the 2021 season, Whitworth launched his "Big Whit Homes for LA Families" program and committed to donating $20,000 after each home game to repair homes in his home state of Louisiana and move Angelenos facing housing insecurity into affordable homes. In Los Angeles, Whitworth is working with non-profits to help individuals pay for rent and groceries, support down payments for homes, and furnish homes. Due to the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida in the state of Louisiana, Whitworth partnered with Rebuilding Together to help make essential repairs to homes damaged by the natural disaster and return them to livable conditions.
Earlier this year, Whitworth hosted more than 30 military veterans with Merging Vets and Players in a suite for a Rams home game at SoFi Stadium and served as the co-host for the team's annual Rams' Night for Wishes benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation for the fourth consecutive season. For the holidays this year, Whitworth is furnishing an apartment for a mother and her three children who are in the process of transitioning from a homeless shelter to permanent housing.
"I never forget the moments spent out in the community and I've appreciated the Rams and the job they have done to be my partner in making a difference for people who deserve our support. To me, one of the longest-lasting things we can do and one of the greatest impacts we can have is not only to win football games, but to win in the communities where we live. That's how you create a culture that expands outside your building," said Whitworth. "Sports in general is about support. I think of it as a father, and I'm there to support and watch them no different than a community is there to support and watch us every single week. My way of showing that support back is to make sure that I'm in the community helping people so they can take that next step they want to take in their life, the same way that I've been supported my entire career. I'm thankful for the opportunity to play in the NFL, but I'm most thankful for the opportunity to impact lives."
"From the moment Andrew became a Los Angeles Ram, he established himself as a cornerstone of our organization through his unmatched leadership, his commitment to serving others, and his ability to inspire those around him to be the best versions of themselves," said Rams Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Demoff. "We are grateful to have leaders like Andrew, who leaves us in awe with his ageless talent on the field and with his dedication to improving the lives of so many in our city and beyond."
In the wake of civil unrest that struck the nation following the death of George Floyd, Whitworth challenged his teammates to donate to social justice non-profits and he pledged to match all donations. As part of that effort, in 2020 alone, Whitworth contributed more than $215,000 to the players' social justice fund and supported 25 Los Angeles non-profits working to address education inequities, community-police relations, mentorship programming, prison reform/anti-recidivism, youth justice, workforce development, financial literacy, food insecurity and homelessness.
At the height of the pandemic in March of 2020, Whitworth also made a $250K donation to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to kick off the team's virtual Te'LA'thon for Los Angeles and support COVID-19 response efforts. Whitworth's contribution financed a total of 1 million meals that were distributed to Angelenos in need.
Whitworth also has funded Big Whit STEAM Labs at an elementary and middle school to help close the technology gap for low-income students and provide them opportunities to achieve upward mobility. Over the past four years, he has recruited teammates to join him for the Rams Night for Wishes to help Make-A-Wish raise more than $875,000 to grant wishes for children battling life threatening illnesses.
For the holidays last year, Whitworth and his family purchased wish list items for 53 families living in crisis motels and shelters. The Whitworths purchased gifts for nearly 100 children and provided each of the 53 families with a $500 Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions gift card along with individually packaged holiday meals.
Rams Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee Andrew Whitworth and his family provided gifts and $500 grocery gift cards to 53 families residing in SOLA Open Air transitional living spaces.
During the holidays in 2019, Whitworth funded a shopping spree for 77 youth with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County, providing each child with a $100 gift card to purchase items on their holiday wish lists. A few days later, he teamed up with United Way of Greater Los Angeles to make the holidays brighter for local children and families who were battling homelessness or had recently transitioned into supportive housing. A total of 114 children received a wrapped gift from their wish list and he surprised all
77 families living in temporary housing with a $500 Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions grocery gift card and treated them to a catered holiday meal.
After a series of tragedies struck the Southern California region in 2018, Whitworth donated a game check to the families of the victims of the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill and hosted families in a suite for the Rams Monday Night Football game. He auctioned off his game-worn jersey to raise money for families affected by the shooting and the wildfires that displaced many across the region the weeks leading up to the game.
In his first season with the Rams in 2017, Whitworth purchased new bikes and helmets for all 600 students at an elementary school in Watts, one of Los Angeles' highest-need communities. During his visit to the school, he spoke to the students about displaying good character and led them in a character pledge before surprising each student with the new bikes and helmets.
From 2017 – 2021 (except 2020), Whitworth purchased tickets for Rams home games and donated them to local charities and schools. Aside from his efforts in Los Angeles, Whitworth was also a community steward in Cincinnati during his time with the Bengals. Before joining the Rams, Whitworth started The Big Whit 77 Foundation, which impacts the lives of youth and families in his home state of Louisiana. One of the foundation's programs, Whit's Warriors, offers financial assistance to high school seniors in Louisiana. The program has awarded $400,000 in scholarships and school supplies. Another program of the foundation is called Open Arms, which is one of the only programs in the state of Louisiana that offers financial assistance to families in the process of adoption. The Whitworths launched Open Arms with a belief that families, who have the desire to adopt, are not turned away due to overwhelming costs.
As a nominee, Whitworth will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
For the fourth year in a row, all 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LVI. The 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air the Thursday before Super Bowl LVI, on ABC.
All 32 nominees will receive up to a $40,000 donation in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of his choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's 7th annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees. Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee's last name or Twitter handle. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between Dec. 7 and Jan. 17 will receive a $25,000 contribution to his charity of choice, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at nfl.com/manoftheyear.