J.J. Watt Named 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year After Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

JJ Watt, Houston Texans, Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, Kealia Ohai
Kealia Ohai and J. J. Watt attend the NFL Honors at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota on February 3, 2018. Christopher Polk/Getty Images

J.J. Watt was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his incredible fundraising efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The Houston Texans player, 25, accepted the prestigious award on Saturday, February 3. “This award is about the inherent good that lies within humanity. It’s about the city of Houston and its ability to overcome adversity at a time when it all seemed lost. It is about the hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country and all over the world who donated to a city they may have never been to, to people that they may never meet,” he said at the NFL honors event. “But they donated simply because they saw their fellow humans going through a difficult time and they wanted to help out.”

As previously reported, Watt, who has played for the hometown team since 2011, raised more that $37 million in 19 days in August 2017 for relief efforts, in addition to donating $100,000 himself. Hurricane Harvey, a catastrophic Category 4 storm, hit Texas in August and caused $125 billion in damage. The Texas Tribune reported in October that at least 88 people died from the storm.

The defensive end was surprised that a video he made with his cell phone in his hotel room could amount to that type of response, telling Us Weekly in September, “I started out with a goal with $200,000 and seeing where it is today is unbelievable. I think it’s a massive testament to the good in people and the good that’s out there in the world.”

Several other famous faces donated to the cause, including Miley Cyrus, Arnold Schwarzengger and Ellen DeGeneres, the latter of whom presented Watt with a $1 million check from Walmart in August.

“These people and this city have treated me so incredibly throughout my career,” the Wisconsin native told Us at the time. “I’ve been so fortunate to play for such good fans, such great city. When you’re going through a situation like this, you obviously want to do anything you can do to help. The best thing I could do at the time, which was being stuck in Dallas, was try and use my platform to raise as much money as I could. The people stepped up to the plate. They deserve all the credit. There are so many generous people out there and I’m just the one who coordinates it.”

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