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BEREA, Ohio (WJW) — The Cleveland Browns announced today CB Denzel Ward has been honored as the team’s 2021 Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Ward said in a statement:

“What an honor it is to be named the Walter Payton Man of the Year for the Cleveland Browns. To be mentioned in the same sentence as Walter Payton is a blessing. It means a lot to be nominated and represent my team, and also to be among so many guys in this league who I respect and who have been doing this a lot longer than me. As a Cleveland native, it is a priority for me to give back to my community, and I hope I can make an impact in a lot of ways – not just in Northeast Ohio but everywhere. I have been fortunate enough with a great support system that helps keep me going on and off the field, and I am excited to see what is in store next.”

The award recognizes one member from each of the NFL’s 32 clubs for their exceptional performance on the field and their dedication to the community.

The Haslam and Johnson families will formally present the award to Ward prior to the Browns-Ravens game at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 12.

“Denzel has always been an exceptional role model and leader for our team and Northeast Ohio through his consistent attitude, actions and performance, which makes him more than deserving of this prestigious award,” said Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Whitney and JW Johnson. “As a Cleveland native, we know how much playing for the Browns, giving back to his hometown and honoring his father’s legacy means to Denzel and the Ward family, and we are proud to have Denzel represent our organization and the region as this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year honoree.”

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski says that Ward’s production on the field and in the community make him worthy of this nomination. 

“He has played at a high level this season, continually working to improve while helping our team win games, and that dedication extends to his involvement in Northeast Ohio,” Stefanski said. “Along with his teammates, we greatly appreciate everything Denzel does in the building and for his meaningful investments in our community, and we congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.”

Since being selected No. 4 overall by the Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft, Ward has started 47 of 48 games played, amassing 172 tackles (139 solo), 10 interceptions, two interception-return TDs, 48 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

One of Ward’s strongest passions resulted in his family establishing the “Make Them Know Your Name Foundation.” Ward’s father, Paul G. Ward Jr., unexpectedly passed away due to cardiac arrest in 2016, and the family turned that tragedy into the inspiration behind the foundation’s mission of preventing heart-related fatalities with early detection and life-saving intervention.

For receiving the award, he’ll receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of his choice, courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.

The Man of the Year award has been given annually since 1970.

Here’s a list of the Cleveland Browns Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominees since 1999:

  • 1999 OG Jim Pyne
  • 2000 LB Jamir Miller
  • 2001 LB Wali Rainer
  • 2002 RB Jamel White
  • 2003 QB Kelly Holcomb
  • 2004 DE Kenard Lang
  • 2005 QB Trent Dilfer
  • 2006 QB Charlie Frye
  • 2007 WR Braylon Edwards
  • 2008 K Phil Dawson
  • 2009 WR Mike Furrey*
  • 2010 OL Joe Thomas
  • 2011 WR Joshua Cribbs
  • 2012 OL Joe Thomas*
  • 2013 LB Jabaal Sheard
  • 2014 LB Craig Robertson
  • 2015 TE Gary Barnidge
  • 2016 OL Joe Thomas
  • 2017 TE Randall Telfer
  • 2018 LB Christian Kirksey
  • 2019 WR Jarvis Landry
  • 2020 DE Myles Garrett
  • 2021 CB Denzel Ward

Congratulations Denzel!