Houston, Texas -- Will Shields, a guard for the AFC West division champion Kansas City Chiefs, was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, it was announced Friday.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue made the announcement this morning in his annual Super Bowl news conference.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, named after the legendary Chicago Bears running back,is the only League award that recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
Shields joins an esteemed list of past winners that includes 12 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Recent winners include Troy Vincent of the Philadelphia Eagles (2002), Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers (2000), and co-winners in 2001 Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jim Flanigan of the Chicago Bears. (complete list of winners below).
Shields, who will play in his ninth consecutive Pro Bowl next week, participates in community service with the same fervor he employs on the field. The "Will to Succeed Foundation," which has developed a number of innovative charity programs, has helped more than 88,000 people since its inception in 1993.
Several major components to the "Will to Succeed Foundation" include, a program called "Operation Breakthrough," which helps meet the needs of disadvantaged children served by St. Vincent’s Family Center. The day care center hosts more than 500 children and Shields and his wife Senia have personally donated countless hours of service and over $300,000 to the organization. The Shields were also instrumental in the Chiefs Wives, a group of 15 to 18 Chiefs players’ wives, adopting the program as their official charity.
"My motivation for establishing the Will To Succeed Foundation’ started in my early days as a college athlete under the influence of legendary University of Nebraska coach Tom Osborne," says Shields. "As I entered my sophomore year, Coach Osborne asked me to participate in a mentoring program for youth. Through this experience I learned the value of community service and how one-on-one supportive relationships can positively affect young people. The Will To Succeed Foundation is a project of love, dedication and vision working to touch others' lives, in the process creating a healthier society for us all."
"Of all the players that we have had here in my 15 years I don’t know of an individual and his wife who have contributed so much and in so many ways to the Kansas City community," says President/GM/CEO Carl Peterson of the Kansas City Chiefs. "On top of his nine Pro Bowl selections, his performance on the field is over-shadowed only by his performance off the field. We sincerely thank Will and Senia, his lovely wife, for all that they do for the Kansas City Chiefs and the National Football League."
Shields is also a spokesman for the Marillac Center for Children, which serves 67 children with emotional and behavior disorders, and helped fund renovations at Sheffield Place, a facility serving homeless women and their children.
Shields, who serves as the Chiefs United Way spokesman, is also involved in a program called "Team Esteem," which rewards youths at Argentine Middle School who have improved academically and have shown creativity in essay writing with trips to cultural events and Chiefs games.
The accomplishments of the 32 finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award one from each NFL team are reviewed by a blue-ribbon panel, which includes Commissioner Tagliabue, Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King, football greats Frank Gifford, Jack Kemp, 2002 winner and current Philadelphia Eagles star Troy Vincent and Connie Payton, wife of Walter Payton.
Shields will receive the distinctive Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, Daniel Schwartz. In addition, Shields’ favorite charity will receive a $25,000 donation in their name. Shields was one of former Huskers named as finalist, joining Mike Rucker (Carolina) and Grant Wistrom (St. Louis)
WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR WINNERS
2003 - Will Shields, G, Kansas City Chiefs
2002 Troy Vincent, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
2001 Jerome Bettis, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
2000 Derrick Brooks (Tampa) and Jim Flanigan (Chicago)
1999 Cris Carter, WR, Minnesota Vikings
1998 Dan Marino, QB, Miami Dolphins
1997 Troy Aikman, QB, Dallas Cowboys
1996 Darrell Green, CB, Washington Redskins
1995 Boomer Esiason, New York Jets
1994 Junior Seau, LB, San Diego Chargers
1993 Derrick Thomas, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
1992 John Elway, QB, Denver Broncos
1991 Anthony Munoz, T, Cincinnati Bengals
1990 Mike Singletary, LB, Chicago Bears
1989 Warren Moon, QB, Houston Oilers
1988 Steve Largent, WR, Seattle Seahawks
1987 Dave Duerson, S, Chicago Bears
1986 Reggie Williams, LB, Cincinnati Bengals
1985 Dwight Stephenson, C, Miami Dolphins
1984 Marty Lyons, T, New York Jets
1983 Rolf Benirschke, K, San Diego Chargers
1982 Joe Theismann, QB, Washington Redskins
1981 Lynn Swann, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
1980 Harold Carmichael, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
1979 Joe Greene, DL, Pittsburgh Steelers
1978 Roger Staubach, QB, Dallas Cowboys
1977 Walter Payton, RB, Chicago Bears
1976 Franco Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
1975 Ken Anderson, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
1974 George Blanda, QB, Oakland Raiders
1973 Len Dawson, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
1972 Willie Lanier, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
1971 John Hadl, QB, San Diego Chargers
1970 Johnny Unitas, QB, Baltimore Colts