I think we can now close the nominations for the NFL’s annual Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
J.J. Watt is likely to be a lock for the award – won the last three years by Eli Manning, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin – after showing that the power of celebrity can produce positive results.
As you probably know, the Houston Texans’ defensive star started a fund for the victims of the flooding in Houston last week with a modest goal of $200,000.
He quickly reached that goal, got to $500,000 in 24 hours and kept and kept raising the goal. It’s now up to a whopping $14 million and counting at YouCaring.com/JJWatt.
One-fifth of that came from the Titans’ controlling owner, Amy Adams Strunk, who lives in Houston and donated $1 million. And new Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul gave $50,000, but many of the contributions were obviously much smaller. Over 50,000 people have contributed.
Granted, it will take billions and not millions to rebuild Houston, but Watt is jumpstarting the effort, although many other charities also need help. Watt’s star power probably appealed to some fans who might not have donated otherwise.
It also puts the Houston season in a new context. The team flew to Dallas after their Saturday night game in New Orleans and stayed there until Wednesday, when the Thursday night game with the Dallas Cowboys was cancelled so they could return home to be with their families.
The Texans open the regular season a week from Sunday at home against Jacksonville, and assuming they can host the game, it is likely to be an emotional scene when they take the field.
One thing is certain: The Texans will likely be a rallying point for the beleaguered city much like the Saints were after Katrina.
It’s one of the seemingly rare times when the NFL can be a force for good.