HENDERSON, Nev. – Las Vegas Raiders punter AJ Cole, the Silver and Black's nominee for this year's WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD PRESENTED BY NATIONWIDE, hosted a community event on Tuesday with his charity of choice, Special Olympics Nevada.
The event was a flag football game where Raiders Alumni who are previous Silver and Black nominees for the Walter Payton Man of the Year played with teams that consisted of special education students from Liberty High School. Raiders Alums Rock Cartwright, Oren O'Neal, Dan Williams, Sam Williams, and Usama Young engaged with the students on the field while competing in the flag football contest.
Cole served as the game's "commissioner" as Liberty High students filled the stands and waived custom cheer cards while supporting their classmates. Members of the Raiderettes were also present to cheer on the participants.
Cole was recently announced as the Raiders' nominee for the award, 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. Cole selected Special Olympics Nevada as his charity of choice, as he has a special place in his heart for athletes who face the added challenge of dealing with intellectual disabilities.
He has been a devout advocate for the children and adults who are part of Special Olympics Nevada, supporting athletes with continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other athletes and the community.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's Charity Challenge (now through January 8, 2023), a social media campaign which gives fans the opportunity to show support for Cole as the Silver and Black's WPMOY nominee and offers the Raiders punter a chance to secure additional donations from Nationwide for Special Olympics Nevada. Fans are encouraged to vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge and AJ Cole or #WPMOYChallenge and @AJCole90.
The event this week is the latest in an extensive list of activities that Cole has been involved in to support the Special Olympics. Earlier this year, Cole participated in sending off the local Special Olympians contingent who were competing in the USA Games in Orlando, Florida. He spent quality time with athletes and coaches over an exclusive dinner at the popular Las Vegas eatery Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen and presented each Special Olympian with a custom Raiders jersey and gifts.
Last year, Cole took part in the Special Olympics Nevada's International Day of Dance while in 2020 he participated in several events in the midst of the pandemic, beginning with virtually participating in the Special Olympics Nevada Health and Fitness at Home. Cole led athletes from Nevada and Northern California in a fun and engaging virtual workout as part of the Healthy Athletes program.
He also shared his at-home workouts to stay in performance shape and discussed the importance of staying active and healthy during the offseason, then took additional time for a post-workout Q&A to chat about favorite quarantine activities, recipes, healthy foods, inspiring messages and what they look forward to the most when shelter-in-place is over.
Cole also joined Special Olympic athletes from Nevada and California as they participated in "Virtual Fall Sports & Fitness," a training program similar to their in-person sports season but conducted from the safety of their homes. Cole virtually stretched and sweated with athletes from flag football, golf and soccer in a conditioning workout lead by a fitness instructor. The Raiders selected Cole to accept the team's Philanthropic Volunteer of the Year Award during the Special Olympics Volunteer of the Year Awards show.
Las Vegas Raiders punter and 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year AJ Cole, in partnership with Special Olympics Nevada, hosted a Unified flag football game along with Raiders alumni who are past Raiders Man of the Year recipients.