HENDERSON, Nev. – The Las Vegas Raiders announced today Darren Waller as the Silver and Black's nominee for the WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD PRESENTED BY NATIONWIDE. Considered one of the league's most prestigious honors, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. Each of the league's 32 nominees were announced today. As a nominee, Waller will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments 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 has overcome substance abuse challenges and NFL suspensions to become a Pro Bowl performer. In 2021, Waller continued his commitment to community that began when he joined the Raiders late in 2018.
Most recently, Waller was honored during one of the most prominent community fundraising events in Las Vegas with the "Tyler Robinson Foundation Inspiration" award during the Rise Up Gala, which raised over $2.6 million to strengthen families financially and emotionally as they cope with the tragedy of a pediatric cancer diagnosis by offsetting out-of-pocket life expenses. Waller, through his foundation, conducted a concert of his own, called "A Concert to Shine On," which brought to life his passion for music and equipping youth to avoid and overcome addiction to drugs and alcohol. The headliner for the event was none other than the foundation's founder Darren Waller.
This summer, Waller continued his dedication of giving back in a diversity of ways. He hosted a youth football camp for approximately 100 children grades 3-8 from in-need communities around Las Vegas and shared his story of overcoming a 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 North Las Vegas teens who have been in prison, foster care or are struggling socially. Waller was able to spend time at the Chef Jeff project by mentoring the young teens while also cooking beignets and jambalaya.
As a result of being named to the Pro Bowl, Waller was given the opportunity to present an NFL Foundation grant to an organization of his choice and selected a Las Vegas high school as beneficiary of the $5,000 award. He also joined teammates to virtually accept a Black History Month Award from the Clark County Commission, which recognized the Raiders "All For You Crew" for their work addressing social injustice.
Waller took time to send virtual 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 greeting that went to Las Vegas area seniors for their 2021 high school graduations. He also shared his life experiences during a mental health discussion 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 unified effort to use their platform to combat 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 children. He filmed a segment on peer pressure, bullying and overcoming addiction for the DEA 360 Program launch of its Truth Not Talk Video Challenge. This video was incorporated in 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 the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada "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 for the Hope Means Nevada: Rising Hope Festival. The annual festival is a day for those struggling with mental health to find resources and community and campaigns to reverse the youth suicide rate of Nevada.
He was selected to appear on the cover of the Raiders' 2019 Community Report after immersing himself in community service during his first full season with the Raiders. Less than 24 hours after the Raiders' season opening win in 2019, Waller engaged with students from Oakland's Futures and CUES at Lockwood Elementary School, leading over 100 students through various stretch routines and football drills while also promoting health and wellness. He was part of a literacy push reading to and encouraging students to read aloud from Davis Street Family Resource Center at Roosevelt Elementary School in San Leandro. In addition, each student received three books to take home.
Waller volunteered at the Alameda County Community Food Bank's Mobile Pantry, where he sorted and distributed food to low-income families in San Leandro. The Mobile Pantry truck visits dozens of neighborhood schools, parks and wellness centers each month. As part of Day of Giving, Waller visited young patients and their families at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland and helped Santa pass out toys for the holidays. He interacted with patients and their families in the cafeteria and made bedside visits where they also passed out Raiders-themed items. Waller lent his assistance and support to a Salute to Service event with Flags of Valor. Families from 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 builds American flags out of wood.
He founded the Waller Foundation in 2020 to equip youth to avoid and overcome addiction to drugs and alcohol and support youth 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 for Waller as he too faced addiction challenges that nearly cost him his football career and his life.
Waller's foundation is multi-dimensional in its approach to assist in the community and is derived from his personal journey. His "Wall Talks" focuses on students who lack positive adult influences, experience changing social environments and do not fit in socially, making them at a higher risk of engaging in substance abuse. His student awareness campaigns are directed at students who do not understand consequences and problems in substance abuse. This program will leverage Waller's platform and his experiences and the experiences of others, to help students have 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 while playing for the Silver & Black. For the fourth year in a row, all 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LVI. The 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air the Thursday before Super Bowl LVI, on ABC.
All 32 nominees will receive up to $40,000 donation in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's Charity Challenge, a social media campaign which gives fans the opportunity to show support for Waller as the Silver & Black's WPMOY nominee and offers the Raiders tight end a chance to secure additional donations from Nationwide for the Darren Waller Foundation. Fans are encouraged to vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge and WALLER.
The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between Dec. 7 and Jan. 17 will receive a $25,000 contribution to his charity of choice, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide. New this year, votes posted on Jan. 4 and 5 count twice and the first player to reach one million votes receives $10,000 for his charity. More information about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and Charity Challenge can be found here.
Tight end Darren Waller has been selected as the Raiders' nominee for the 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which recognizes outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field.