DE Michael Johnson is the Bengals’ nominee for the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. The ninth-year pro from Georgia Tech is among 32 team winners in contention for the league WPMOY Award, the only NFL award recognizing a player’s off-field community service and playing excellence combined.
Three of the 32 nominees will be selected as finalists, and the winner will be announced in Minneapolis at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Feb. 3, the night before Super Bowl LII, from 8-10 p.m. on NBC.
“I’m proud and extremely humbled to be nominated for the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award,” said Johnson. “Everywhere I go, I try my best to represent my family, my home and my team. This is truly an honor.”
“Michael never hesitates to step up,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “He feels the need and passion to go over and above to mentor and support our young people. He is a role model on and off the field.”
Johnson has been committed to giving back since his rookie season in the league. The mission of the MJ93-90 Foundation is to educate children on the importance of capitalizing on their talents and abilities with mentorship, educational programming and encouraging them to have a vision for success. Johnson recently started a program encouraging kids and the Cincinnati Police Department to strengthen their relationship by strengthening their understanding of one another. This year’s program includes a community service component where the kids and officers volunteer together.
Johnson explains, "The goal is to get kids and officers working side by side for the betterment of the community and to learn from each other, which can ultimately lead to a stronger bond and a safer community. We are one team with one goal in one community so I encourage everyone to ask themselves: Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?"
Starting in Week 14, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year trophy silhouette will appear in uniform elements to further recognize past award winners and current nominees. Johnson will wear a Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season, in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
Five hundred thousand dollars will be donated in the name of the 2017 winner. $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. The two other finalists will each receive a $100,000 donation to their charity of choice and a $100,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook. All other 29 nominees will receive a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice and an additional $50,000 donation in their name to expand Character Playbook. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and United Way Worldwide.
The Man of the Year Award has been given annually by the NFL since 1970. It was renamed in 1999 for Payton, the Chicago Bears’ Pro Football Hall of Fame running back. Two Bengals are past winners of the league award, QB Ken Anderson in 1975 and OT Anthony Munoz in 1991.
To learn more about Johnson’s nomination, visit NFL.com/manoftheyear.