Harris named Broncos Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year

By  | 

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. The Denver Broncos have selected cornerback Chris Harris Jr. as their 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, it was announced at a team meeting on Thursday. The prestigious award, presented by Nationwide, recognizes a player for his outstanding leadership both on the field and in the community.

The Denver Broncos also announced their other “Champions in the Community” awards on Thursday. Outside linebacker Von Miller was presented with the Broncos’ Community Impact Award while long snapper Casey Kreiter, safety Will Parks, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and safety Justin Simmons received the team’s Community Ambassador Awards.

The 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year national winner will be announced in Minneapolis at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Saturday, Feb. 3, the night before Super Bowl LII, from 6-8 p.m. MST on NBC.

“The Broncos are proud of the positive impact our players have working with our community development team as well as advancing their own personal causes,” Executive Vice President of Public & Community Relations Patrick Smyth said. “We’re incredibly honored to have Chris Harris Jr. represent the Broncos as our Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his consistent and wide-ranging dedication to bettering the lives of others.

“Giving back has always been very important to Pat Bowlen, and we’re grateful for the investment that Chris and his teammates make as leaders in our community.”

A three-time Pro Bowler (2014-16) and two-time Associated Press All-Pro (First Team, 2016; Second Team, 2015), Harris Jr. has been a leader in the Denver community since joining the team as a college free agent in 2011.

Harris Jr. and his wife, Leah, started the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation in 2012 to provide underprivileged youth with unique opportunities so they can more adequately achieve their goals.

Harris Jr., who received one Division I scholarship offer and was undrafted, supports ‘underdogs’ throughout Colorado in addition to his hometown of Tulsa, Okla. Each summer, Harris Jr. holds his Underdog Academy Football & Cheer Camp in Tulsa, teaching young athletes football fundamentals and lessons in leadership.

Through his foundation, Harris Jr. has established partnerships with notable national and local organizations, including the Denver Children’s Home (DCH), which helps kids who have survived trauma, neglect and abuse confront serious mental health challenges. The Chris Harris Jr. Foundation has positively impacted hundreds of kids and families through various programs and events supporting DCH.

Dating back to 2014, Harris Jr. has worked with children from DCH and Salvation Army with a holiday shopping spree at his “Shop with a Jock” event. This year, he deepened his support for DCH with the inaugural “Coats for a Cause” drive, which collected more than 350 coats and raised nearly $6,000.

Since 2013, Harris Jr. has supported various statewide and nationwide initiatives to speak out against domestic violence, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s “How I See DV” campaign and the NFL’s NO MORE movement. This season, the Broncos tapped Harris Jr. for a statewide PSA in partnership with “Stand Up Colorado,” a collaborative, multi-year relationship violence prevention campaign spearheaded by the Colorado Attorney General that goes beyond public awareness to alter behavior and affect long-term social change.

This summer, Harris Jr. joined Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock in launching Mentor Colorado’s #MentoringFlipped campaign to improve the number of quality mentoring relationships for young people. Harris Jr. was selected because of his commitment to mentoring underdogs and work with Big Brothers Big Sisters over the past four years.

Harris Jr. has also been one of the most consistent advocates for the team’s community platform, including his role as the player liaison for the team’s partnership with Denver Rescue Mission. He has received the Broncos Community Ambassador Award in each of the last two seasons for his leadership in team initiatives.

In addition to his charitable work, Harris Jr.’s professionalism and respect for the game has been recognized on multiple occasions. In 2013, the Denver media selected Harris Jr. as the team’s Darrent Williams Good Guy Award winner. He was chosen as the team’s Ed Block Courage Award winner by his teammates in 2014 after coming back from a torn ACL to start every game and earn his first Pro Bowl.


The NFL’s national Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year winner will receive a charitable contribution of $500,000 — $250,000 will be donated to the winner’s charity of choice and $250,000 will be donated in his name to expand Character Playbook across the country.

Two runner-ups will receive $100,000 to fund Character Playbook in multiple markets and $100,000 for a charity of his choice. Each team-level winner receives $50,000 in his name to fund Character Playbook in his team’s market plus $50,000 for the charity of his choice—a total of $100,000.

Starting in Week 14, all 2017 nominees will wear a Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season, in recognition of their accomplishments on and off the field. Additionally, all current players who have won the national award will wear a Man of the Year patch on their jerseys in perpetuity.

Previous Broncos nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award include tight end Virgil Green (2016), safety David Bruton Jr. (2015), guard Ben Garland (2014), linebacker Wesley Woodyard (2010-11, ‘13), guard Zane Beadles (2012), cornerback Champ Bailey (2008-09), cornerback Domonique Foxworth (2007), wide receiver Rod Smith (2004, ’06), safety John Lynch (2005), linebacker Ian Gold (2003) and wide receiver Ed McCaffrey (2002).

Quarterback John Elway (1992) is the only Broncos player to win the national award, which was first given in 1970 and renamed after the Chicago Bears’ Pro Football Hall of Fame running back in 1999.


· Miller’s impact on the greater Denver area reached new heights in 2017 through his foundation, Von’s Vision. Since Von’s Vision’s inception in 2012, Miller has raised $3.4 million ($1.1 million in 2017 alone) to provide eye exams, frames and lenses to low-income children. By the end of the 2017 calendar year, more than 6,000 Denver students will have received free eye care through Von’s Vision.

· Kreiter has helped the Broncos Tackle STEM program through his involvement with local students. He participated in National STEM Day in addition to presenting at the FIRST Robotics regional competition and Colorado Technology Association’s APEX Awards. He also makes regular visits to patients at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

· Parks led the team in service hours this year after attending more than 20 team community events, including seven visits to local Colorado high schools. He also attended PLAY 60 clinics, Taste of the Broncos, Hometown Huddle and Drive for Life.

· Sanders launched the Emmanuel Sanders Foundation this year to provide children from financially disadvantaged families with resources and support to reach their full potential and attain a better life. He continues to support team initiatives on top of his foundation’s work, including extensive outreach to kids at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver. Earlier this season, Sanders rallied his teammates to raise more than $87,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in his hometown of Houston.

· Simmons made 16 community appearances, including six High School Game of the Week visits. He has been a leader for the team’s relationship with Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, including speaking at its annual graduation ceremony and spending time at the Broncos’ branch during his free time.