The three finalists for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year have been announced: Panthers tight end  Greg Olsen, Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson, and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. Greg Olsen is nominated for his work with helping people with breast cancer and children with congenital heart defects, Watson for the efforts his One More Foundation has made towards ending sex trafficking and slavery worldwide, and J.J. Watt of course for the massive 37 million dollar donation towards hurricane relief in Houston.

Even though everyone has seen the result of his charitable efforts, not everyone knows how this great display of American philanthropy began.

Originally, Watt was stuck at a Dallas hotel after a preseason game in New Orleans. He was stuck at the hotel because the Texans team plane to Houston had to be diverted in order to avoid Hurricane Harvey. Stuck in this hotel room and wondering what he could do to help the people of Houston from so far away, Watt decided to spend his time asking for donations on Twitter through a youcaring.com page.

Watt “honestly didn’t know if he’d even reach 200,000 dollars”, but he was elated to see that this goal would be obliterated, with 500,000 dollars being donated in just the first 24 hours. Watt’s national popularity as an elite football player led to thousands donating to help hurricane victims in Houston.

After raising his goal one million dollars, his fundraising campaign started to gain some steam. Other celebrities started donating, like Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul, who personally gave 50,000 dollars.

Every time Watt raised his goal, America answered, and soon other celebrities joined the cause. Ellen DeGeneres, in a partnership with Walmart, donated one million dollars to Watt’s fund. In addition Charles Butt, the head of the HEB supermarket chain, donated a whopping five million dollars. Other celebrities like Drake, Kevin Hart, and Jimmy Fallon also made considerable donations.

Since the movement was gaining popularity, other big names in football started contributing, with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick combining for 150,000 dollars in donations. Furthermore, Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk donated one million dollars to the cause.

At the time, it appeared as if the connection between Houston and the entire country was J.J. Watt, and through this connection, donations kept piling in.

Eventually, the fundraising campaign reached over 37 million dollars, with 30 million being used as donations towards charitable organizations such as Americares, Feeding America, SBP and Save the Children. The remaining seven million will be kept in 2018 to assess the relief efforts.

Watt’s fundraising campaign also came just before the Houston Astros won their first World Series title in franchise history. That World Series win couldn’t have come at a better time, and lifted the spirits of everyone in Houston. All of this culminated in both J.J. Watt and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve gracing the Sports Illustrated magazine cover as “Sportsperson of the Year”.

All in all, Watt has done incredible things for the city of Houston and more than deserves to be nominated for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Even though Hurricane Harvey stopped the Texans’ plane from landing in Houston after that preseason game against the Saints, the charitable spirit of America still arrived, in large part because of J.J. Watt’s decision to help those in need.

 

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