The Walter Payton Man of the Year award is given annually by the National Football League honoring aplayer's volunteer and charity work as well as his excellence on the field.
Since his rookie season, Thomas has been an extraordinary asset in the community. He has remained one of the most consistently reliable Saints players participating in multiple team community events each year ranging from (but not limited to) school visits, hospital visits, holiday food & toy drives, NFL-sanctioned events, team corporate partner events, local community events, and teammate foundation events, just to name a few, while continuing to instinctively excel on the field throughout his tenure with the team.
His charitable foundation, iCan Foundation, was founded to help prevent and educate youth and adults about the ongoing and rising issues of childhood obesity in the U.S. through its programs and activities and was also designed to promote living a healthy lifestyle through physical activity as well as a proper diet. Obesity has a profound effect and can increase a child’s risk of numerous health problems and it can also create emotional and social problems. Obese children are also more likely to be obese as adults, increasing their risk of serious health problems. Recognizing this concern, Thomas wanted to use his resources to help combat this issue.
Thomas is currently working to develop new educational programs and initiatives that would create more public awareness about the disease for youth and their parents. His annual events include a Christmas Healthy Food & Toy Drive where he delivers toys & healthy snacks to all of the patients and spends quality time with them as well. Each April, he also hosts a festive Prom of Champions event where 200 youth are invited to attend, along with a guest, who are battling blood disorders and varying cancers (and who otherwise would not be able to attend their own school’s prom).
Thomas has also been active on the horticultural front by planting edible gardens at schools in his hometown and also led Let’s Move! Move Your Body Flash Workouts with kids. He also has developed an iCanBeFit! program with 1on1 Health Fitness.
Current programs under his foundation’s umbrella include It’s Geaux Time (where the Play 60 message is its basis), Football Skills Day, iCan Shopping with a Saint Event, I Can Grow Community Garden Projects, and Reviving Recess.
Thomas has been an exceptional find for the Saints – first signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007, he earned a roster spot as a rookie, excelling on special teams. He’s evolved into one of the most productive running backs in team history as anequally versatile threat in the backfield as a runner, receiver and blocker. In 90 games with 31 starts, Thomas has carried 754 times for 3,474 yards (4.6 avg.) with 25 touchdowns and added 269 receptions for 2,158 yards (8.0 avg.) with 11 touchdowns.
The Walter Payton Man of the Year award is given annually by the National Football League honoring aplayer's volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field. Prior to 1999, it was called simply the NFL Man of the Year Award. Shortly after Chicago Bearsrunning backWalter Payton died (having been the 1977 recipient himself), the award was renamed to honor his legacy as a humanitarian. Each year, a winner is selected from 32 nominees from the 32 different teams. A panel of judges, which includes the Commissioner of the NFL, Connie Payton (widow of Walter Payton), the previous year's winner, and a number of former players, selects the winner of the award. The Man of the Year winner receives a $25,000 donation in his name to a charity of his choice. The other 31 finalists also receive donations in their name of $1,000 each to charities of their choice.