Sam Barrington, the Green Bay Packers’ nominee for the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award last year, challenged his teammates to be active in the community.
Jayrone Elliott took that message to heart.
“That was right up my alley because I’ve been doing that my whole life,” Elliott said on Wednesday. “I grew closer to Sam after that because it takes a strong man to challenge a group of men. He challenged me. On the Tailgate Tour, we bonded. We always hung out together. I picked his brain to see how he motivates kids. I just wanted to be like him.”
On Wednesday, the Packers nominated Elliott for the Payton award.
“I walked to my locker this morning and I saw the plaque at my locker,” Elliott said. “I didn’t know what it was for so I opened it. I was kind of surprised, and then the tweets started coming in. It made my day, because my little one’s sick at home.”
This is a big week for Elliott. Injuries have hammered the outside linebacker group. Nick Perry is out with a broken hand. Clay Matthews is limited by an injured shoulder. Rookie Kyler Fackrell, who had taken some of the snaps Elliott had hoped to play this season, has missed the last two games with an injured hamstring and didn’t practice on Wednesday.
Those injuries meant 24 snaps for Elliott against Houston — his most since Week 3 — and should mean a steady diet of playing time in a crucial game against Seattle on Sunday.
“I don’t do anything different” in terms of preparation, Elliott said. “One thing Coach (Winston) Moss always tells us is prepare like you’re a starter. That’s one thing I’ve been trying to do every week and trying to enhance my role on special teams as well as playing defense.”
Elliott has fond memories of the Seahawks. In last year’s 27-17 victory over Seattle at Lambeau Field, he made a one-handed interception to set up a field goal on one possession and then forced a fumble for the clinching turnover on the next possession.
“I got a couple plays,” Elliott said with a smile.
“I was out there having fun. That was the loudest I’ve ever heard Lambeau since I’ve been here. Hopefully, it’ll be just as loud Sunday.”
Elliott deserves a rousing ovation.
There are a lot of demands on an athlete, especially on those precious Tuesday off-days. There are plenty of reasons to stay home. Instead, Elliott relishes those opportunities to visit schools and talk to the students.
“Usually when I walk in there, they’ll be a little disappointed because I’m not A-Rod or Jordy Nelson,” Elliott said. “Once we get past that stage, we just sit around and talk. It depends on what age group it is. I like to read books to the elementary kids. If it’s middle school, I’ll do ‘Play 60’ with them. If it’s high school, I try to get them ready for the real world.”
“The kids are our future,” he added. “You’ve got to instill positive things in them to motivate them to be successful so they can make the best they can out of every opportunity.”
All 32 teams nominate a player for the Walter Payton reward, which recognizes those players for excellence on and off the field. The field of 32 will be trimmed to three finalists in January, and the winner will be announced at the “NFL Honors” program on the eve of Super Bowl LI.
“It’s a unique honor,” he said. “I’m very blessed.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.