Pat McAfee has a genuine heart to go with the humor and on-field excellence.
The Indianapolis Colts’ fun-loving punter was named the team’s “Man of the Year” Tuesday for his commitment to community service and leadership on and off the field. Colts coach Chuck Pagano will present McAfee with a commemorative plaque and football on Wednesday.
“We talk about serving all the time, putting the team first, and serving. Pat embodies everything of what we call a Colt. He’s a pillar guy,” Pagano said in a release distributed by the team. “Not only is he a great football player, but what he does off the field is tremendous. It’s a great honor. It’s one of the highest honors I think you can get in the National Football League. And to have the opportunity to be the Walter Payton Man of the Year at the end of the day is a testament to Pat’s hard work. We’re very, very proud of Pat and more proud of the stuff he gives back to this community and what he does outside of football. A great honor.”
McAfee will be the Colts’ nominee for the NFL’s national Walter Payton Man of the Year award, the highest distinction a player can receive for efforts on and off the field. The honor is named after the late, great Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.
“It is an incredible honor to be named the Colts’ Walter Payton Man of the Year,” McAfee said in the release. “In the darkest of times, the most fulfilling thing in the world is finding the light. Although sometimes it’s very difficult, if you’re willing to look hard enough willing to look hard enough, you can find positives in every situation.
“There are so many moments that I've been lucky to be a part of. From helping vets with my friends at Wish For Our Heroes, to visiting with inspiring kids and young adults who are much tougher than I battling illnesses. From helping local high schools to random acts of kindness, they all hold a special place in my heart, but the one that really opened my eyes was when the tornadoes hit some of our Indiana communities last year. It was an unfortunate series of events that caused plenty of heartache and damage for some citizens of our state, but if you looked hard enough you could see it as an opportunity. An opportunity for other Hoosiers to prove that no matter what the situation, no matter what the triumph, we will always have each other's back. Together we raised $40,000 in 48 hours for the victims. We couldn't fix everything that was lost, but it was at that moment, that I realized how incredibly lucky I am to be a member of this community.
“Indiana is filled with caring people and Hoosier Hospitality is real. I’m just trying to do my part. I am humbled, happy and excited to serve this state for years to come. There's never a wrong time, to do the right thing. Let's make the world a better place.”
Drafted by the Colts in 2009, McAfee holds Colts career records in kickoffs (475), kickoff touchbacks (231), punting gross average (45.8 yards) and punting net average (39.1 yards). He ranks fourth in franchise history in career punts (425) and punting yards (19,471) and third in punts inside the 20-yard line (143). This season, McAfee has logged 59 punts for a 47.2-yard average while tying his career-high and franchise record with 27 punts pinned inside the 20-yard line. His net average of 43.7 yards ranks second in the NFL while his 67 kickoff touchbacks lead the league.
Off the field, McAfee has become arguably one of the most recognizable players in the NFL. Whether supporting his teammates charitable endeavors or engaging personally in Indianapolis and his home state of Pennsylvania, McAfee continues to make his mark in the community. Pat formed “The Pat McAfee Foundation” to provide scholarship assistance to the sons and daughters of U.S. military personnel. He holds the men and women of our armed forces in high regard and formed this foundation to assist their children in continuing their education beyond high school. In 2014, the foundation awarded $35,000 in scholarships, totaling more than $60,000 to recipients since 2013.
McAfee lends his support to many charitable endeavors. On a local level, he donated $45,000 to support Northwest High School in central Indiana by rebuilding its football program. Upon learning about his high school’s faulty weight room, McAfee donated $40,000 to build a new facility which supports all of the school’s athletic teams.
Earlier this year, he initiated the #ThankAHero campaign. One Purple Heart recipient received a surprise full home makeover. Last year at the Nov. 10th “Salute to Service” game in Indianapolis, McAfee reunited a military husband with his wife and two sons and donated a new SUV to the family.
In the spirit of holiday giving, McAfee supported Wish For Our Heroes with a $25,000 donation last week to assist with bill-paying assistance for 14 soldiers, 63 youths and 10 spouses. He also matches a $500 weekly donation for local military heroes each week on “The Pat McAfee Show.”
At each Colts home game, McAfee donates 20 tickets and meal vouchers to Wish For Our Heroes as a part of the team’s Community Ticket Block program. He also serves as the team’s representative on United Way’s TEAM NFL initiative. Through this campaign, he attended “Hometown Huddle” to unveil a new fitness room at a local community center with the United Way of Central Indiana. McAfee is one of 32 players around the NFL who have pledged to help United Way promote a healthy active lifestyle nationwide.
In addition to his personal efforts, McAfee has supported several of the Colts community programs and initiatives, and those of his teammates, during his six NFL seasons. This year, he was selected by the Colts as the 2014 Salute to Service nominee, an award created to acknowledge the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL Community to honor and support U.S. service members and veterans.
For more information on The Pat McAfee Foundation, visit www.thepatmcafeefoundation.org.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.