The San Francisco 49ers announced on Thursday DL Arik Armstead as their 2020 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide. Named after the late Hall of Fame running back of the Chicago Bears, the award is given annually to a player demonstrating outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. The 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air the week of Super Bowl LV, on CBS.
Since being drafted by the 49ers in the first round (17th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft, Armstead has been a consistent philanthropist, with a particular focus on education and his hometown of Sacramento, Calif. Through his foundation, the Armstead Academic Project, Armstead has raised over $200,000 to reinvest into his community.
The pandemic has exacerbated disparities and underscored an increasing digital divide. In an effort to ensure children have the resources to continue their education virtually, Armstead donated $50,000 and personally delivered 350 Chromebooks along with one-year of pre-paid internet service and education kits to multi-student families through Sacramento's Mercy Housing which provides low-income housing.
To promote literacy and motivate students to read, Armstead launched Storytime with Arik Armstead this year, which won him the prestigious NFLPA Community MVP in Week 10. Since May, the program has impacted over 440 youth from first-to-fourth grade and included 21 virtual classrooms visits in more than 15 school districts from Sacramento to Doha, Qatar, while covering topics ranging from equality, black history, sustainability and beyond.
In addition to his work around education, Armstead has been active with social justice. Starting in 2020, Armstead has opened each of his press conferences by addressing different societal issues, including education inequality, racism, implicit bias and more. He also turned words into action through work on the 49ers Players Social Justice Council, which directed the allocation of the team's $1 million donation following the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Since 2016, Armstead has made it a priority to visit UC Davis Hospital annually during the holidays and has donated a total of $20,000 in toys for the hospitalized children. If a patient isn't able to leave their room, he makes individual visits to spread holiday cheer.
Throughout his six-year career (2015-20), Armstead has appeared in 74 games (55 starts) and registered 190 tackles, 20.5 sacks, five passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
In 2019, Armstead registered single-season career highs in tackles (54), sacks (10.0), passes defensed (two), forced fumbles (two) and fumble recoveries (one). His 10.0 sacks led the team and ranked tied for 15th in the NFL last season. He also started all three postseason contests and added eight tackles, 2.0 sacks and one forced fumble. He signed a five-year contract extension with the team on March 16, 2020. This year, he has started all six games and registered 16 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two passes defensed.
As a nominee, Armstead will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
All 32 nominees will receive a $40,000 donation in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's 6th annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees. Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee's last name. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between Dec. 10 and Jan 17 will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide.