Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was named a co-winner of the 2016 "Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year," along with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
The "Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year" is the only league award that recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence. Fitzgerald, Manning and Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen were the three finalists for the award.
"Our communities are better because of what Larry Fitzgerald, Eli Manning, Greg Olsen and the thousands of other outstanding NFL players bring to them," said Cardinals President Michael Bidwill. "They are all truly worthy of our recognition and appreciation. But at the Cardinals, we all know how special Larry is and why he is particularly deserving of this prestigious honor. What he has accomplished as a receiver in his 13 years in the NFL will be nearly impossible to match. Even more so is the level of class and integrity he has consistently brought to our league and our organization.
Fitzgerald now joins Kurt Warner (2008) as the only players in Cardinals history to be named the "Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year."
This marks the third time that the award has gone to co-winners. In 2006, quarterback Drew Brees and running back LaDainian Tomlinson were co-winners and in 2000 linebacker Derrick Brooks and defensive tackle Jim Flanigan shared the award.
One of the NFL's most popular athletes since the Cardinals made him the third overall selection in the 2004 NFL Draft, the 10-time Pro Bowler has become one of the most accomplished wide receivers in league history. The franchise career leader in receptions (1,125), receiving yards (14,389) and receiving TDs (104), Fitzgerald ranks in the top 10 in NFL history in receptions (3rd), receiving yards (9th) and TD receptions (8th). He is one of just seven players in NFL history 14,000 receiving yards and 100+ receiving TDs in his career and his ongoing streak of 195 games with at least one reception is third-longest streak in league history. Fitzgerald finished the 2016 season – his 13th in the NFL – with a league-leading 107 receptions.
Fitzgerald's playing excellence is matched by his conduct on and off the field. Following the 2014 season, was named the inaugural winner of the Art Rooney NFL Sportsmanship Award, presented to an NFL player who demonstrates on the field qualities of great sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for opponents and integrity in competition. He was selected as the Cardinals nominee for the Salute To Service award in '14 in recognition of his support for the Armed Forces and in 2012 was named the recipient of the 14th Annual Arthur S. Arkush Humanitarian Award by Pro Football Weekly, which is given to the NFL player whose contributions to the community and charitable organizations are especially outstanding.
Through his two foundations-the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund and the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund, Fitzgerald has helped thousands by providing funds for positive activities for kids across the country. In the past few years, Fitzgerald has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to middle schools and high schools in Minneapolis and Phoenix to help fund books, science supplies, field trips and to help provide the latest technology to disadvantage youths who otherwise would not have access.
Fitzgerald's First Down Fund has made significant contributions to dozens of organizations throughout the country and locally has served as a donor to both the Phoenix Children's Hospital and the Phoenix Children's Hospital Rainbow Camp. Globally, Fitzgerald has done extensive work with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, helping fit hearing aids for those in need all over Africa, working alongside President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea just prior to training camp in '12. He has also traveled to Ethiopia with good friend Anquan Boldin on behalf of Oxfam America, helping work on irrigation systems and digging wells in local communities. As part of his strong support of the military, Fitzgerald recently helped raise money for the Semper Fi Fund and joined other NFL players on a USO Tour of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009.
The Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund was established to honor his late mother, Carol, and Fitzgerald has become heavily involved in furthering breast cancer research. He has long served as a spokesman for the NFL's A Crucial Catch campaign, donating funds for each reception, TD reception and Cardinals victory during the month of October. He has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars based on his on-the-field performance. Larry has also been honored as the recipient of the NFL Players Association Georgetown Lombardi Award, which was established to honor a leader in the sports industry whose life and family have been touched by cancer, and who encourages cancer research, prevention and treatment through awareness and philanthropy.