Darren Waller named Raiders’ nominee for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide
HENDERSON, Nev. – The Las Vegas Raiders today announced Darren Waller as the Silver and Black’s nominee for the WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD, presented by NATIONWIDE. The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, presented by Nationwide, is considered one of the league’s most prestigious awards, recognizing an NFL player for outstanding community service off the field and excellence on the field. Each of the competition’s 32 nominees has been announced today. As the nominee, Waller will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet emblem through the end of the season in recognition of his achievements on and off the field.
Waller is in his third full season with the Raiders after entering the NFL with Baltimore in 2015. His life story is one of opportunity, redemption and service as he overcame the challenges of substance abuse and NFL suspensions to become a Pro Bowl performer. In 2021, Waller continued his commitment to the community, which began when he joined the Raiders in late 2018.
Most recently, Waller was honored at one of the most prominent community fundraising events in Las Vegas with the “Tyler Robinson Foundation Inspiration” award at the Rise Up Gala, raising more than $2.6 million to financially and emotionally empower families in the handle the tragedy of a pediatric cancer diagnosis by offsetting out-of-pocket living costs. Waller, through his foundation, conducted a concert of his own called “A Concert to Shine On,” which brought his passion for music to life and equipped youth to avoid and overcome addiction to drugs and alcohol. The headliner of the event was none other than the founder of the foundation, Darren Waller.
This summer, Waller continued his commitment to giving back in a variety of ways. He hosted a youth soccer camp for approximately 100 grades 3-8 from needy communities around Las Vegas and shared his story of overcoming drug addiction and having a successful career in the NFL with youth who are part of the Chef Jeff Project. The Chef Jeff Project teaches culinary and life skills to teens in North Las Vegas who have been incarcerated, in foster care, or struggling socially. Waller was able to spend time on the Chef Jeff project mentoring the young teens while also cooking fritters and jambalaya.
As a result of his name in the Pro Bowl, Waller was given the opportunity to donate an NFL Foundation grant to an organization of his choice and selected a Las Vegas high school as the beneficiary of the $5,000 prize. He also joined teammates to receive a virtual Black History Month Award from the Clark County Commission, which recognized the Raiders “All For You Crew” for their work to tackle social injustice.
Waller took the time to send virtual get well wishes and offered support to a child with terminal cancer whose favorite team is the Raiders and his family, as part of a Make-A-Wish presentation. He was also part of a virtual salute to the seniors of Las Vegas for their final exams in 2021. He also shared his life experiences during a discussion about mental health with a panel of NFL players as part of the “Kicking the Stigma” -initiative. The initiative is supported by players across the League as a united effort to use their platform to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness.
In 2020, Waller served and shared nutritious meals with 1st and 2nd grade students at Jack Dailey Elementary, a Title I school in Las Vegas, to learn how to fuel up for a successful school day. After serving lunch to the students, Waller spent quality time with the kids. He filmed a segment on peer pressure, bullying and overcoming addiction for the DEA 360 program launch of the Truth Not Talk video challenge. This video is included in the Clark County School District curriculum in recognition of Red Ribbon Week.
Last year, as part of the team’s Crucial Catch activations, Waller joined members of Nevada’s Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation “Teen Scene,” a social networking group of teens who have been diagnosed with cancer or are in remission in a virtual escape room. He filmed a video message discussing the importance of mental health to the Hope Means Nevada: Rising Hope Festival. The annual festival is a day for people struggling with mental health to find resources and community and campaigns to reverse the youth suicide rate in Nevada.
He was selected to appear on the cover of the Raiders’ Community Report 2019 after immersing himself in community service during his first full season with the Raiders. Less than 24 hours after winning the Raiders season opening in 2019, Waller engaged with students from Oakland’s Futures and CUES at Lockwood Elementary School, guiding more than 100 students through various stretching routines and soccer exercises while promoting health and wellness. He was part of a literacy push lecture to and encouraged students to read aloud from the Davis Street Family Resource Center at Roosevelt Elementary School in San Leandro. In addition, each student was given three books to take home.
Waller volunteered at the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry, sorting and distributing food to low-income families in San Leandro. The Mobile Pantry truck visits dozens of neighborhood schools, parks and wellness centers every month. As part of Day of Giving, Waller visited young patients and their families at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and helped Santa distribute holiday toys. He interacted with patients and their families in the cafeteria and made bedside visits where they also handed out Raiders themed items. Waller lent his help and support to a Salute to Service event with Flags of Valor. Families at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California were treated to an afternoon of flag building with Flags of Valor, a veteran-owned and operated organization that makes American flags from wood.
He founded the Waller Foundation in 2020 to equip young people to avoid and overcome addiction to drugs and alcohol and to support young people and their families during their recovery and treatment journey. Waller created the Foundation to give back and give others a chance for recovery and success. This is personal to Waller as he too faced substance abuse issues that nearly cost him his football career and his life.
Waller’s foundation is multidimensional in its approach to helping in the community and is derived from his personal journey. His “Wall Talks” targets students who lack positive adult influences, experience changing social environments, and don’t fit in socially, putting them at higher risk for substance abuse. His student awareness campaigns target students who do not understand the consequences and problems of substance abuse. This program leverages Waller’s platform and his experiences, and the experiences of others, to help students gain the motivation and confidence to say “no.” To date, his foundation has provided six grants to families who cannot afford adequate treatment for their child’s addiction.
Raiders Alumnus and Pro Football Hall of Famer George Blanda was named NFL Man of the Year in 1974 when he played for the Silver & Black. For the fourth year in a row, all 32 team winners will be featured as nominees and recognized for their significant work over the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LVI. The 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during the NFL Honors, a primetime awards broadcast on ABC the Thursday before Super Bowl LVI.
All 32 nominees will receive a donation of up to $40,000 in their name to a charity of their choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to a charity of their choice. All donations come from the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide’s Charity Challenge, a social media campaign that gives fans the opportunity to show support for Waller as the Silver & Black’s WPMOY nominee and offers the Raiders a chance to raise additional donations from Nationwide for the Darren Waller Foundation . Fans are encouraged to vote on Twitter using #WPMOYChallenge and WALLER.
The player whose unique hashtag is most used between December 7 and January 17 will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second and third place players will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of nationwide. New this year: Votes posted on January 4 and 5 will count twice and the first player to reach a million votes will receive $10,000 for their charity. Find out more about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and Charity Challenge here.