HOUSTON – Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus was named the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee.
The award is considered one of the league's most prestigious honors and recognizes NFL players for their "outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field."
Each team has a nominee.
Mercilus' foundation, WithMerci, focuses on supporting families of children with disabilities and special needs.
In the past two years, Mercilus' foundation has donated more than $325,000 to advocate services for families of children with disabilities and academic programs servicing the special needs population.
“The Houston Texans have long been appreciative of all that Whitney does for the community since being drafted in 2012,” said Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Cal McNair. “Giving back to the City of Houston and the Texans community is a vital part of our mission as an organization, and year in and year out, Whitney goes above and beyond. Whitney is the true embodiment of what it means to be a Houston Texan and is most deserving to be recognized as our Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee.”
According to the team, Mercilus has contributed countless hours and monetary contributions to organizations, such as a donation of $20,000 to the Houston Independent School District for its Department of Special Education; $65,000 toward recovery efforts to Smartie Pants Academy, a school specifically serving students with disabilities and special needs post-Hurricane Harvey; and $25,000 to the American Red Cross.
Mercilus is also the face of the Texans mascot program, TORO Takes the Bull Out of Bullying.
As a nominee, Mercilus will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season.
All 32 team winners will be highlighted as finalists and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LIII. The 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally Feb. 2, the eve of Super Bowl LIII.
The winner of the award will have $500,000 donated in their name. A $250,000 donation will be given to expand the Character Playbook, the NFL and United Way’s digital character education program, and an additional $250,000 will be donated to a charity of the player's choice.
All other nominees will be given $50,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.
All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.
Fans can vote for their nominee by using #WPMOYChallenge on Twitter with their favorite nominee’s last name somewhere in the post between Dec. 6 and Jan. 13. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, courtesy of Nationwide.