After tight end Dwayne Allen accepted a plaque as the Indianapolis Colts’ recipient of the @Walter Payton Man of the Year award Wednesday, he expressed humility in calling himself “undeserving.”
Then the fourth-year pro stood outside of the locker room and shook hands with every member of the media to thank them.
That’s the kind of guy Allen is.
Admired by teammates as much as fans and media, Allen is as engaging an athlete as the Colts have had in recent years. The annual award was bestowed upon him for countless hours spent trying to make a difference in the community.
“Man, a huge honor,” Allen said at the team complex. “A huge honor, again, I say I’m undeserving.
“The name of the award is the Walter Payton Man of the Year. Ever since I got here, I’ve tried to be the best servant as I could on the field, off the field. It started at Clemson University. Dabo Swinney is one of the biggest servants in the community of Clemson, South Carolina, and surrounding areas. Whenever I got here, (owner) Mr. Jim Irsay and his daughters have been the greatest examples of what it means to not only lead but lead in the community through the way that they serve. That’s the only thing that I’ve tried to do is show people that I’m either foolish or crazy or just plain hopeful enough to believe that through my example of servanthood others will choose to serve also and we can make this world a better place.”
Head coach Chuck Pagano introduced Allen as the recipient.
“It’s obviously a great honor and privilege to be able to introduce this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award,” Pagano said. “It’s obviously no surprise with the guy standing right next to me. This is an award and an honor that is probably one that means more than a ton of things in this league. We talk about team here all the time: team first, self second and serving.
“Dwayne is the epitome of a Colt. All the characteristics that we’re looking for in a football player, in a man, in a teammate, he’s got them all and some. Great leadership on the field, great leadership off the field, great leadership in the locker room, but more importantly what this guy gives back to the community. All the time that he spends serving others. Again, I’m very, very proud to be Dwayne’s coach. I’m honored to be his coach and again it’s a great privilege and honor to introduce this year’s recipient, Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Dwayne Allen. Congratulations.”
Each of the NFL’s 32 teams select a recipient and a national winner will be announced before Super Bowl 50 at the HFL Honors Award Show, which airs Feb. 6 at 9 p.m. on CBS.
A third-round selection in 2012, Allen has started all 39 games he has played in and caught 87 receptions for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Allen’s nomination for the national award was submitted as follows:
“Every year, the Colts rookie class is given t-shirts that read: Give. Serve. Lead. Since receiving that shirt as a rookie in 2012, Allen has embodied those words and has been relentless in his efforts to live them out. Growing up in a single parent household as one of seven children, Allen had no father figure. After getting into trouble as a teenager, the football coach at his high school gave the then-freshman Allen $10 to get a physical and try out for the team or use the money as he liked. He chose the former and credits that moment with changing the course of his life as he joined the football team and his head coach became the positive male role model that he needed.
“Allen saw firsthand the impact that the game of football and the investment of time can make in someone’s life and has become one of the Colts most active players in the community. As a rookie in 2012, he participated in nearly all of the team’s Community Tuesday events, while also excelling on the field as he set a Colts rookie record for tight ends with 45 receptions and led all NFL rookie tight ends with 45 receptions for 521 yards.
“In 2013, Allen became the Player Executive for DREAM Alive, Inc., an Indianapolis-based non-profit started by Colts Alumnus Tarik Glenn. Its mission is to equip urban youth to become leaders by providing them with mentoring relationships, character development and experiential learning. They reach nearly 800 youth each year with their programs. Allen supports DREAM Alive, Inc. with his time, talent and treasure. At each Colts home game, he hosts 20 youth, providing them with a pre-game field visit, tickets, bags and meal vouchers. He also mentors students one-on-one, participates in community events and has helped raise nearly $200,000 for DREAM Alive.
“Allen was chosen to serve as an NFLPA Player Representative for the Colts in 2014. He also took part in the NFL’s national ‘NO MORE’ PSA campaign. In addition, he was named the team’s Ed Block Courage Award winner because of his commitment to sportsmanship and courage. On the field, he started in all 13 of the games in which he participated in and scored eight touchdowns, which tied for the fourth-most in Colts history by a tight end in a single season.
“This year, in addition to his work with DREAM Alive, Allen participated in a week-long military tour overseas and continues to support organizations both locally and in his hometown of Fayetteville, N.C., including, but not limited to: Baskets of Hope, School on Wheels, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Indiana Children’s Wish Fund. He also uses his weekly TV show to feature non-profits in Indianapolis and highlight their work.”
Former Colts quarterbacks Peyton Manning (2005) and Johnny Unitas (1970) are the only Colts to win the national honor. Last year, the national honor went to Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. Punter Pat McAfee received the Colts’ honor last year.
Davis received a $50,000 donation in his name to the charity of his choice from the NFL Foundation. All nominees received a $5,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice. The selection panel was comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton (widow of Walter Payton), Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Muñoz, 2013 winner Charles Tillman and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.