I don’t normally get excited about pro football awards.
This year is different. The National Football League today announced its Walter Payton Man of the Year award. It goes to someone I just knew would get it: J.J. Watt, the standout defensive end for the Houston Texans.
What did Watt do to earn this honor, named after the late Walter Payton, the Hall of Fame running back and one of the great all-round great gentlemen of all pro sports?
Watt decided to launch a fundraising effort to help victims of his adopted hometown of Houston, after the wrath it suffered from Hurricane Harvey. He set a modest goal of $250,000.
Uh, Watt finished with a lot more than that. He ended up raising a cool $37 million for the waterlogged residents of Houston, whose homes were destroyed by the epic rainfall.
J.J. Watt is a tremendous athlete. I am delighted to know that the NFL has recognized him for possessing a tremendous heart.
Many of us far away from the coast saw this award coming. Our hearts were broken when Harvey came ashore not once, but twice along the Texas Gulf Coast. It pounded the Coastal Bend with killer winds and storm surge, then backed away from the coast and returned as a tropical storm.
It was on its second visit to the coast that Harvey did its damage to Houston and to the Golden Triangle, just east of the big city.
J.J. Watt stepped up in a big-time way to raise money for those victims — and has richly earned the title of the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Well done, young man. I would bet that Walter Payton, the man they called “Sweetness,” would be proud of you, too.