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.
“I have been part of the Cleveland community for nine years now,” Bitonio said. “[Giving back] is just something that my mom and my dad instilled in me to take care of the people that take care of you. This community has always taken care of me. No matter where you are in life, you can lend a helping hand, be part of the community and give back, and a lot of times, you give back to help somebody, but those interactions fill you up, as well.”
The Haslam and Johnson families will present the award to Bitonio prior to the Browns-Ravens game at FirstEnergy Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 17.
“The honor of being the Walter Payton Man of the Year for the Cleveland Browns is pretty surreal,” said Bitonio. “You see guys like (Browns Legend T) Joe Thomas who have won the award before and you see across the NFL guys like (former Saints QB) Drew Brees, (Cardinals DE) J.J. Watt and people who did things on very grand scales and have been great role models for their team and their community. To be named the Man of the Year for me is pretty special.”
Bitonio is the longest-tenured Brown. He was selected No. 35 overall.
Bitonio and his wife Courtney are ambassadors for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and regularly donate their time and money to the organization.
Bitonio has also served as a co-chair of “Taste of the Browns,” the group’s largest fundraiser, for the last two years.
Bitonio has participated in a Shop with a Pro event every year since joining the team, personally funding the night for Northeast Ohio youth each of the past five years.
He’s also done outreach programs for A Kid Again, which supports families who have children with life-threatening conditions.
“I look back on my upbringing and the coaches and the people who have been part of my life growing up, and I think it is just a cumulative, ‘Thank you.’ I appreciate it, and let’s see what else we can do to help the community,” Bitonio said.
The 2022 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air the Thursday before Super Bowl LVII.
All 32 nominees will receive up to a $40,000 donation in their name to their charity of choice.