(SportsRadio 610) - Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey has been named as the team's nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
The award is considered the league's most prestigious recognizing a player for their outstanding community service activities off the field and excellence on the field.
“We are proud to call Christian Kirksey a leader on our team and in the Houston community,” Texans Chair and CEO Cal McNair said. “He sets an example for everyone on how to do things on and off the field, and he is incredibly deserving of this honor.”
McNair, along with his wife Hannah and family members of Kirksey’s, surprised the linebacker a couple of weeks ago atop one of the buildings in the medical center.
Kirksey thought he was going to a community event but once he stepped foot outside of the patio doors he was beside himself.
“The next thing you know, I see this huge picture of myself when I was in high school,” Kirksey said. “I was like, ‘Why is there a picture of me in high school?’ Then I look over, and I see my whole family. I was speechless for a while. It’s just truly an honor.”
Last season, Kirksey took time out to speak with high school students, teaching them how to carry themselves on and off the field. He celebrated the Texans’ partnership with Texas Southern University and awarded a local high school coach with Coach of the Week honors.
Most recently, following the tragic events at Uvalde High School, Kirksey traveled to the small town west of San Antonio to surprise the football team at their team dinner. Kirksey supplied them with new Nike uniforms, and made invaluable connections with a number of young men.
“I lost my father when I was 17, around the same age as those kids, so I can relate in the loss. I didn’t lose it to violence, but loss is loss,” Kirksey said. “So, I can be there for them and let them know that it does get better. There are better days ahead.”
Kirksey said he wanted to be there for the students affected by the tragedy, to let them know that they don’t have to hide their emotions when they feel them and that they can be themselves with him.
“It is OK to have your emotions come out, and it’s okay to not understand your emotions,” Kirksey said. “For me, I just want to be a role model where they can sit and be real with me and talk to me about whatever they’re feeling because I’ve been in their shoes with taking a loss of somebody that’s close to you.”
Throughout his nine-year NFL career, Kirksey has demonstrated his commitment to the community and exemplifies what it means to be a leader.
He plans on continuing to lend a hand whenever and wherever he can. That altruistic quality is something he learned from his father and carries with him.
“My dad was a pastor, so I always saw him work with people, take his time to really hear somebody out or help when they need help,” Kirksey recalled fondly. “As a young kid, just seeing that, I mean that inspired me.”
Being a person, that young men can go to for help, understanding or just to talk is what Kirksey wants to be for those who may not have that particular figure in their life.
“But if I can be a help of any source, that’s what I want to be,” Kirksey said. “That’s something special to me whenever I can help a young man going through life.”
Each of the leagues 32 nominees were announced Tuesday and will receive up to a $40,000 donation on their name to a charity if their choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL man of the Year Award will be announced the Thursday before the Super Bowl and receive up to a $250,000 donation to the charity of his choice, courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in the eighth annual Charity Challenge by tweeting #WPMOYChallenge and their favorite nominee’s Twitter handle to vote for their team’s nominee.
Kirksey’s Twitter handle is @Kirko58. The three nominees with the most mentions between Dec. 6 and Jan. 8 will receive additional donations to the charity of their choice. More information and official rules for the social media contest can be found at NFL.com/manoftheyear.