Madieu Williams named NFL's Man of the Year

Vikings safety Madieu Williams was announced as the NFL's Walton Payton Man of the Year before the Super Bowl, recognizing his charitable work off the field.

Vikings safety Madieu Williams is the 2010 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

The award recognizes players' off-the-field community service as well as on-the-field achievements. He was one of three finalists for the award and is the first Viking to win the award since wide receiver Cris Carter in 1999. Those are the only two Vikings to win the honor since its inception in 1970.

"It is a tremendous honor to win this award named after Walter Payton, one of the greatest men to ever play in the National Football League," Williams said in a statement while visiting troop in the Persian Gulf. "I'm sorry I couldn't be there to accept the award, but it's an even greater honor to be here in Iraq with Task Force Iron Horse on a goodwill tour watching the Super Bowl with our troops."

Williams is involved in several charitable efforts, but he is best known for his $2 million personal donation to create the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health at the University of Maryland, where he attended college. The seven-year NFL veteran holds dear his native Sierra Leone, and public health in that African country is the focus of many of his global health initiatives. He already funded the construction of one school in his homeland and currently another school is in the process of being built. His foundation also sponsored a mission to Sierra Leone that flew American teachers, dentists and surgeons to help provide much-needed information at his school. They provided free surgeries and dental cleanings to all children that were in need.

In the Twin Cities, Williams is involved with the North Community YMCA, the United Way and Harvest Prep/Seed Academy. He also provides season tickets for kids in his "Dieu's Crew" program.

"When Madieu signed here as a free agent, before he caught his plane home, he asked to visit the
University of Minnesota Children's Hospital," said Brad Madson, the Vikings community relations executive director. "Right then I knew he was a special man. It's been a privilege to see Madieu embrace our local community through his work with the North Community YMCA and Harvest Preparatory/Seed Academy, but globally, the great works he has done and is doing in Sierra Leone will leave a legacy long after Madieu is done playing football."

For winning the award, Williams receives $20,000 toward his favorite charity.

"It is a tremendous honor that Madieu has been named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year," said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who also coached Williams with the Cincinnati Bengals. "It is quite an accomplishment and one that is well-deserved. Madieu is a person that cares about people. He is not your prototypical pro athlete by any means. The fact that he is still taking trips and helping others that are less fortunate says a lot about Madieu. He has no other motivation other than to see someone else's life become better than what it currently is. He is a rare person."

Williams still hosts a free football camp in Maryland, where he was raised after leaving Sierra Leona at the age of nine. He also continues to give back to the Cincinnati community (he was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft).

"From the day I first met Madieu I could tell there was a fire inside of him. He is a quiet and humble young man that is not attention-seeking," said Gloria Friedgen, coordinator of Alumni Affairs and Outreach at the University of Maryland. "I am so proud to see Madieu receive the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. He is truly leaving his mark on the world."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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