SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers announced on Thursday cornerback Richard Sherman as their 2019 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide, marking his second nomination for one of the NFL's most prestigious awards. Named after the late Hall of Fame running back of the Chicago Bears, the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide is given annually to a player demonstrating outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. The winner will be announced in Miami, FL, the site of Super Bowl LIV, during the ninth annual NFL Honors awards show, on February 1st.
Since being selected in the fifth round (154th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Stanford University, Richard Sherman has been a consistent force on the field and in the community. Blanket Coverage, the Richard Sherman Family Foundation, was formed in 2013 to help equip students from low-income communities with the necessary tools for success. After starting Blanket Coverage with an operating budget of $50,000, Sherman has now raised more than $1.5 million which has helped over 70,000 students. In December 2016, Blanket Coverage launched the 25 for 2,500 initiative, donating $2,500 to 25 different charities with beneficiaries serving a range of missions including foster homes, pediatric cancer, families experiencing homelessness, grieving families who have lost a child, creative arts, military services and more.
"To say I am honored to represent the San Francisco 49ers as the organization's 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee would be an extreme understatement," said Sherman. "From the moment I became a 49er, I recognized the unwavering commitment the team has to positively impact our community in a multitude of ways, in particular, its youth. I'm especially grateful to my parents for instilling the philanthropic values I carry with me today at a young age, and to my wife, Ashley, for being so passionate in those same beliefs and spearheading our family's efforts. Our foundation, Blanket Coverage, will continue to work to make education and resources accessible to all children because every child matters. Thank you to the NFL, for creating this award which continues to raise awareness for the tremendous work so many players do on a daily basis to enrich the lives of others. Walter Payton embodied the spirit of community engagement and I am humbled by this nomination and the opportunity to represent his legacy."
Understanding the direct correlation between students' academic performance and hunger, Sherman donated nearly $23,000 in October to the Tacoma School District to relieve the lunch debt of students who are receiving free or reduced lunch. In November, he donated over $7,000 to Cabrillo Middle School for the same cause. Additionally, since August, Blanket Coverage has provided 16 low-income schools and over 2,500 students with backpacks and school supplies.
In addition to the work that Sherman does with Blanket Coverage, he has been very active on his own throughout the Bay Area, specifically around social justice advocacy. In 2018, Sherman participated in the launch of a justice forum in Oakland hosted by the Players Coalition, which focused on district attorney candidates and the major role they play in the justice system. He is an active member of the 49ers Social Justice Initiative's player's council, which initiated the decision to fund a joint grant with Google.org to The National Center for Youth Law in support of the Santa Clara Youth Justice Initiative, which works to reform the way the country interacts with young people who come into conflict with the law. Most recently, Sherman visited incarcerated youth at Santa Clara Juvenile Hall with Fresh Lifelines for Youth to empower residents to change their narratives, channel anger into positive avenues and access available resources to turn their lives around.
Throughout his nine-year NFL career, Sherman has earned the reputation as one of the best overall cornerbacks in the NFL. Known for his physicality, Sherman has appeared in 132 games (126 starts) and registered 456 tackles, 114 passes defensed, 35 interceptions (three returned for touchdowns), six fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles and two sacks. Since entering the NFL in 2011, Sherman's 35 interceptions are the most among active players, while his 114 passes defensed rank third among active players.
Signing with the 49ers as a free agent in 2018, Sherman returned to the Bay Area, as he attended Stanford University and transitioned from wide receiver to cornerback. In 2019, Sherman is leading a reloaded San Francisco 49ers defense. With 53 tackles and three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) on the season, Sherman and the 49ers defense are allowing just 150.8 net passing yards per game in 2019, the fewest in the NFL.
As a nominee, Sherman 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 donation of up to $50,000 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 5th 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. 12 and Jan. 12 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. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at nfl.com/manoftheyear.