Buffalo Bills safety George Wilson was chosen as the 2009 winner of the Buffalo Bills/NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award, and was presented the prestigious award at the Monday Quarterback Club's annual player awards luncheon on January 4th.
The award was given to Wilson for a combination of his excellent play on-the-field and his tremendous off-the-field contributions to the community.
Wilson's acceptance speech was a genuinely special moment for those in attendance to remember.
"I am truly honored and blessed to receive this tremendous award," said Wilson. "Being single, when I'm done with my workouts and football, I try to use my time wisely and speak to the kids and really get involved with the community. I want to make a difference and share with kids that they can do anything they put their mind to."
He credited Bills punter Brian Moorman, who won the award last season, for giving him the inspiration to do even more in the community in 2009. He also thanked God for blessing him to be the person he is, and said he promised God that he would try to share his blessings with as many people as he could.
"When I saw Brian win this award here last year, it gave me the inspiration to do more, not to win this award but to get more involved and do even more."
He also shared with those in attendance some very touching personal stories about why he gives so much of himself to the community, which put tears in the eyes of many in the crowd. He received a loud standing ovation upon the completion of his speech.
Wilson, a team captain since 2008 as chosen by his teammates, has been a steady performer on defense at safety. Under his leadership, Wilson was a big reason why the Bills secondary was second in the NFL in interceptions. He got his hands on four picks and set career highs with 15 tackles against Houston (11/1/09) and two sacks against Miami (10/4/09).
Wilson is also very hands-on with his community support and gives freely of his time.
Among the many local community activities and events that George spearheads are the Play 60 Challenge involving 8,000 students where he speaks about the importance of staying active and making healthy choices; the "That's Life" speaker series at area schools where he talks to students about the importance of education, staying in school and goal-setting; the St. John Fisher College Summer Reading program at Training Camp where he is the spokesperson; the "George's Jungle" program where he personally donates 20 season tickets and meal vouchers to Buffalo Public High School students; the Buffalo Bills "Stay in School" program, an anti-gang program where he speaks to kids done in partnership with the Buffalo Police Department, the BPS and the Mayor's office; and the Bills Annual Red Cross Blood Drive at the Stadium where he is a spokesperson for giving blood to save lives.
George remembers his roots too and gives back to his hometown of Paducah, Kentucky. He hosted a Summer SportsFest in 2008 and 2009 that benefitted his alma mater and made a series of presentations at the University of Kentucky as a guest of the UK Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center. His presentation, "Accusations, Allegations and Acceleration: How to Stay on Top of the Game" addressed topics such as recent media attention regarding athletes and illegal activities and media portrayals of African-American athletes.
He recently founded the George Wilson S.A.F.E.T.Y. Foundation (Saving Adolescents From Everyday Trials of Youth). In April he plans to host a Life Skills Camping Retreat in Nashville to teach leadership, self-esteem and responsibility to youth. In May, he plans to host a high school football combine in Kentucky and he plans to expand the "That's Life" program to Fayettville, AK.
In November 2008, Wilson received the President's Volunteer Service Award from the White House for his commitment to supporting fitness programs for children. This is the highest service honor a person can receive from the White House.