Gary Barnidge receives, but loves to give

Gary Barnidge is quite the receiver-- or tight end-- but, as the Walter Payton award winner for the Browns, likes far more to give.

BEREA— Browns tight end Gary Barnidge, quite literally, receives for a living. 

He’s on the receiving end of passes that land in his hands and receives money for the catches he makes. 

On Wednesday, Barnidge received once again, but this time, it wasn’t a football that came into his possession. 

Rather, it was the Walter Payton Man of the Year award for the Cleveland Browns. 

The Man of the Year award is one given to a member of each NFL team before a single player wins the league-wide award and the criteria for each is based upon outstanding community service and on-field play. 

While Barnidge was honored to receive the award from his teammates, he was much more excited about the opportunity he has to give back to those around him.  

“I think we are in a position where we can give back to so many people— smile at somebody, saying hey to somebody or signing an autograph, anything like that can change their outlook on life or their day,” Barnidge said. “You never know the impact you can have on somebody. That is something that is dear and true to me.”

Barnidge’s love for giving back has manifested itself in many forms.

He takes Browns fans to movies weekly, hands out shoes to fans in need and is the face of a non-profit organization that promotes football in other countries-- “American Football Without Barriers.” 

Barnidge takes the time out of his busy schedule to do those many things not to receive an honor like the Man of the Year award, but to simply do what he loves to do. 

“I don’t do it for the recognition. I just do it to give back. I don’t care if anyone knows about it,” Barnidge said. “I would rather it be something where I can just give back. I don’t need recognition or anything like that because it is not what I am doing it for.”

While Barnidge— a known movie buff— is popular around Cleveland for his cinematic endeavors with trivia winners through his Twitter account, he’s known across the country more so for his non-profit venture. 

For American Football Without Barriers, Barnidge travels to various countries to help spread the sport of football and, in some instances, to bring back to America those with talent in the sport, so that they may receive a collegiate scholarship to play. 

In fact, that’s exactly what happened recently upon a trip to China. 

“We brought two kids over from China, and one of them was offered a scholarship on the spot at (Steelers RB) DeAngelo Williams’ football camp,” Barnidge said. “He turned it down because he wants to go to Stanford for school. That is what we want. They don’t recruit for football internationally. They do for basketball and baseball and other sports, but they don’t for football. We are trying to break that trend.”

In addition to the educational opportunities provided by football, Barnidge has seen the opportunities in equality that have come about as well. 

Take, for instance, Barnidge’s trip to Turkey a year ago. 

“We did something that is not known in Turkey – we did a women’s camp,” Barnidge said. “We put women on the field at the same time as men. That is not something they do over there. We thought it was something that they deserve—the same opportunity that we deserve. We had them competing with the boys. They were amazing.”

American Football Without Barriers, led in part by Barnidge, has done incredible work around the world and, according to the tight end, won’t be slowing down any time soon. 

Next week, Barnidge will announce where he and the organization will visit this year to spread passion for the pigskin. 

“We talk over the summer with different countries and we decide where we are going to go and where is best for everything,” Barnidge said. “Then we figure everything out during the season and then we usually announce it towards November or December.”

Barnidge already knows exactly where they’ll be heading, but he wants to keep it a secret until it’s officially announced. 

The league-wide winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award will also be a secret until he is announced on February 6, 2016. 

For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.

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