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The Washington Redskins announced today that they have selected wide receiver Pierre Garçon as the team’s 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year. Garçon’s selection qualifies him as one of 32 candidates to receive the league-wide award, an honor given annually by the league to recognize a player’s community service and volunteer efforts as well as his excellence on the field.
Three of the nominees will be selected as finalists for the award, named for Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton, who died in 1999. Finalists will be announced in January 2017 and the winner will be announced in Houston at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Feb. 4, the night before Super Bowl LI.
Between his own personal endeavors and working the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, Garçon has a history of giving back. As a rookie in 2008, he founded the Pierre Garçon Helping Hands Foundation with the goal to use his newfound celebrity and ability to leverage his name to help those in need. He has done that in many ways including supporting both his family’s homeland, Haiti, and deserving children’s causes.
When Haiti was rocked by a devastating earthquake in 2010, Garçon launched into action to raise money and awareness. He has continued to look for ways to shine a spotlight on the challenging living conditions in Haiti and commits to mission trips each year.
Following Hurricane Matthew’s destruction earlier this season, Garçon made an effort to be on the forefront of the Redskins relief efforts. He travelled to Haiti on Monday, October 10, hours after scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the Redskins victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Garçon’s visit to Haiti focused on bringing medical supplies and bottled water to Hospital Bernard Mevs, and is just one example of his dedication to his family’s homeland.
“[Being of Haitian descent] shows me how to work extremely hard through difficult times, because that’s how we have dealt with life as a people,” Garçon shared with Caribbean Beat Magazine. “We came through tough times throughout history, and we survived. Being from Haiti gives me strength. As a football player, I never give up on anything or any task. I represent Haiti everywhere I go.”
Garçon was born in upstate New York, but relocated with his family to South Florida at a young age. His parents, Haitian immigrants, worked tirelessly to provide for him and his siblings. At six years old, Garçon’s father died, leaving behind a close-knit family in a new community.
Garçon remembers the help he got from community volunteers when he was growing up. It is his inspiration to affect change.
“I grew up in our church and we played sports all the time,” he recalled to NFL Player Engagement. “We always had somebody to take us to church, take us to school programs. The guy that always picked us up, without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I want to put out what he put into me.”
His passion for paying it forward and helping children realize and achieve their potential can be seen in the support of after school programs, specifically the Boys & Girls Club organizations in the communities he has lived and worked. In 2013, he created a new event in DC to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, an organization that was struggling financially. The Pierre Garçon All-White Party has become the largest event of the spring calendar, raising nearly $400,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs since inception, and is supported by the entire Washington Redskins organization.
In addition to the work he does independently, he has become one of the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation’s most reliable players, lending a “helping hand” at many children-focused events during the 2016 season.
Throughout the last several months, Garçon has attended a handful of these events, including the Redskins annual charity golf classic, the Redskins Runway Show, the Redskins Harvest Feast and many Play 60-sponsored events at local schools.
On the field, Garçon has been just as impressive. During last Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, he extended his streak of consecutive regular season games played with a reception to 98, the sixth-longest active streak in the NFL. Seventy of those games in Garçon’s streak have come with Washington, where he joined in 2012, the third-longest streak by a member of the Redskins since the 1970 merger.
Garçon also recorded his 500th career reception this season against the Cleveland Browns, making him one of just 10 active players to have at least 500 catches.
The prestigious Man of the Year award has been given annually since 1970. Past Redskins winners of the Walter Payton Man of the Year include: Ryan Kerrigan, 2015; Darrel Young, 2014; Alfred Morris, 2013; Joshua Morgan, 2012; Lorenzo Alexander, 2010-11; London Fletcher, 2008-09 (selected as NFL finalist in 2009); Rocky McIntosh, 2007; Renaldo Wynn, 2006; Shawn Springs, 2005; Chris Cooley, 2004; Darnerian McCants, 2003; Eddie Mason, 2002; Chris Samuels, 2001; Darrell Green, 1996 (won the national award); and Joe Theismann, 1982 (won the national award).