Larry Fitzgerald named co-winner of Walter Payton Man of the Year Award

Posted at 7:04 PM, Feb 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-05 00:51:40-05

Four days after announcing he will return to the NFL next season, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald was bestowed with an honor that only one other Cardinal has ever won.

On Saturday night, Fitzgerald was announced as the co-winner of the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is given annually to NFL players who demonstrate excellence on the field and is active in charities and the local community.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning was named as the other Man of the Year winner, marking the third time the award will be shared by two winners. Panthers tight end Greg Olsen was also a finalist. The award was given during the NFL Honors show in Houston.

"It's really special," Fitzgerald said. "You don't really wish to win an award, but to be able to win one this prestigious and to be on the same stage with some of the greatest humanitarians and athletes to ever play this game is such a great experience and something I'll cherish for the rest of my life."

Fitzgerald joins Kurt Warner as the only Cardinals to win the award, which dates back to 1970. Warner was the 2008 Man of the Year winner and was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier Saturday night. He presented the award to Fitzgerald and Manning on Saturday night.

Fitzgerald had considered retiring after 13 years in the NFL but announced Tuesday he will return to the Cardinals next season.

Fitzgerald has created two foundations, the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund and the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund, which raises funds toward the creation of positive activities for America's youth.

Fitzgerald has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to high schools and middle schools in Phoenix, as well as in his hometown of Minneapolis, to fund books, suppliers, technology and field trips for underprivileged children.

Fitzgerald was honored to have his father with him in Houston during the award ceremony, and he said he felt the presence of his mother, who died from breast cancer in 2003.

"It's really special to be able to share that with them because I'm just a product of who they raised me to be," he said. "My dad would take me to a lot of fun, different things, and my mom would take me to humanitarian efforts, and that was a great experience for me to learn to be compassionate and learn about the needs of other people."