This may have been one of the hardest lists I’ve had to put together. The NFL is full of players that can be considered good guys. For this list, we’re taking a deeper look at some of the players that have made huge impacts in their respective communities over the years. The majority of these players are recipients of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, the league award given to the player who shows excellence both on and off the field.
I want to make sure to start this off by saying that this list can be put in any order and there are a ton of players that could, and likely should make this list. By no means am I putting these players’ charitable humanitarian efforts above those made by fellow NFL players. Any and all charitable works should be applauded and uplifted. With that in mind, here are five of the “good guys” that play in the NFL.
Good Guy #5: Travis Kelce
Travis Kelce is best known for a couple of things: his over-the-top personality on the field and his incredible play that backs it up. He’s been a star receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs since entering the NFL in 2013. He is currently the longest-tenured member of the team and will continue to be an integral member of the team’s high-powered offense.
Off the field, Kelce is the creator and face of his own charity: 87&Running. His charity is geared towards supporting disadvantaged youth by providing funding, resources, and opportunities for young people across the country. This season, Kelce was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and while he didn’t win that, he won the Nationwide Charity Challenge, for an extra $25,000 donation to a charity of his choosing.
Good Guy #4: Calais Campbell
Calais Campbell is a mountain of a man. The six-time Pro Bowler towers over his opponents as he consistently crushes fellow NFL players. He has a long resume of excellence on and off the field.
Firstly, Campbell was the 2019 recipient of the Walter Payton Award after two prior nominations. He and his family have been running the CRC Foundation, focused on teaching local youth important life skills, since 2009. After joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017, Campbell quickly ingrained himself in the community.
To put him over the edge in 2019, he started the Campbell’s Season of Giving for 2019. He donated money for each Jaguars win and for his individual stats. He ended up donating over $50,000 from his personal efforts before winning the extra money from the Walter Payton Award.
Good Guy #3: Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson‘s on-field resume is as good as it gets. The man has a Super Bowl ring, has led the league in passing yards and touchdowns, and is an eight-time Pro Bowler. Wilson has little to nothing left to prove on the field, but he still makes it a point to make a difference in his community.
Wilson is the current holder of the Walter Payton Award, winning it after the 2020 season. He started his Why Not You Foundation back in 2014 and has made a huge impact in the Seattle community. His outreach was especially felt during the COVID-19 pandemic, as he and his wife shifted their focus to helping those in need during quarantine and beyond.
Also in 2020, Wilson helped open the Why Not You Academy in Seattle. Set to open this coming fall, it is a tuition-free public academy geared towards giving personalized, high-quality education to low-income residents of Seattle.
Good Guy #2: J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt has had a lengthy and illustrious NFL career. While healthy, he was one of the best edge rushers in the league, year in and year out. He’s been named Defensive Player of the Year three times and is one of only two active players with more than 100 sacks in their career.
Watt won the Walter Payton Award in 2017 in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey which devastated the city of Houston. Watt set out to raise $200,000 (half of which was coming from Watt himself). Instead, he was able to raise over $37 MILLION for the city.
Watt has a long history of charitable efforts, dating back to his original foundation. He founded the Justin J. Watt Foundation in 2010 and has helped fund athletic programs since then.
Good Guy #1: Larry Fitzgerald
Although he is a free agent at the moment, Larry Fitzgerald is one of the longest-tenured players in the NFL. He is widely regarded as one of the best receivers to ever put on a helmet, known for his soft hands and incredible range. He has earned 11 Pro Bowl nods out of his 16 career seasons. He is currently second all time in both receptions and receiving yards.
Fitzgerald won the Walter Payton Award in 2016 through his dedication to his charity: the Larry Fitzgerald Foundation. His foundation is dedicated to two main causes: promoting literacy in K-12 and fighting breast cancer. Over the years, he has dedicated individual grants of more than $1 million and many smaller grants as well. Fitzgerald continues to be an elder statesman of the NFL as one of the most well-respected athletes around.