The San Francisco 49ers announced DL Arik Armstead as their 2021 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide marking his second consecutive nomination for one of the NFL's most prestigious awards. 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.
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. In September of 2021, Armstead made his largest donation to date when he pledged $250,000 to Mercy Housing California, an affordable housing organization in Sacramento, to create the Armstead Academy, gaining him recognition as the Week 4 NFLPA Community MVP.
Serving more than 400 students, Armstead Academy offers academic support, after-school programming, and career exploration opportunities including college campus visits through the Leataata Floyd Student and Family Community Center, a joint resource program offered by Mercy Housing and the Sacramento City Unified School District.
In 2021, he continued to grow his Storytime with Arik Armstead program to motivate students to read. In addition to visiting schools in person and via Zoom to read to classrooms, Armstead helped distribute books to over 2,000 San Francisco Unified School District students and over 2,000 Boys & Girls Club members that emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion and supported a black-owned business and two authors of color. Since May 2020, he has impacted nearly 5,000 youth from first to fifth grade, read live to 25 separate virtual classrooms in 21 school districts from Sacramento to Qatar, and covered topics including equality, black history and sustainability.
Throughout his seven-year career (2015-21), Armstead has appeared in 90 games (71 starts) and registered 243 tackles, 25.5 sacks, six passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. In 2019, Armstead registered single-season career highs in tackles (54), sacks (10.0), forced fumbles (two) and fumble recoveries (one). His 10.0 sacks led the team and ranked tied for 15th in the NFL that 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 12 games and registered 36 tackles and 3.0 sacks.
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 7th 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 or Twitter handle. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between Dec. 7 and Jan. 17 will receive a $25,000 contribution to his charity of choice, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at nfl.com/manoftheyear.