watt a hero

J.J. Watt wins the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award thanks to his tireless Harvey relief

J.J. Watt wins the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award

JJ Watt Man of the Year
In his trademark style, Watt credited his co-nominees, and the citizens of Houston. Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated

Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt is the NFL’s Man of the Year.

Watt won the Walter Payton Award Saturday, February 3, during the NFL Honors show, beating out Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson. Both were deserving, but Watt’s efforts after Hurricane Harvey all but made him a shoo-in.

As the damage from the storm was becoming clear, Watt posted a video online with a goal of raising $200,000 to help the city recover from Harvey’s devastation. Watt’s efforts drew national attention, and 19 days later he had raised an amazing $37 million, with donations from many celebrities from all over the country. Watt became one of the faces of recovery in the storm’s aftermath, giving hope to a battered city.

When Watt was named one of the three finalists, he tweeted out this: “Humbled & honored to even be mentioned in the same breath as Walter Payton. Also happy to share the nomination with @BenjaminSWatson and @gregolsen88 who are both extremely deserving. This is so much bigger than just one man. It’s about the good in all of humanity.”

 

Olsen and Watson have helped numerous people through their charitable foundations and epitomize what is best in people. Watt put an entire city on his shoulders in the aftermath of a disaster and made the world take notice.

The 28-year-old Watt would go on to miss most of the 2017 season with a broken leg. A three-time defensive player of the year, Watt has been the face of the franchise for most of his Texans career, which began in 2011. But his off-field efforts were much more important.

On the field, the Texans are hoping a healthy Watt and quarterback Deshaun Watson can propel them back to the playoffs next year.

Off the field, they already have a champion.

Many Houston athletes stepped up in the wake of the storm, but Watt’s contributions will not soon be forgotten. The NFL got it right by naming him the Walter Payton Man of the Year.

For all Watt has done on the field, he will always be remembered for his efforts off it when a city needed him the most.

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Fred Faour is the editor of SportsMap, and hosts "The Blitz" weekdays at 4 pm on ESPN 97.5.