BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – All of the work that Eagles defensive end Chris Long has done in the community to make our world a better one was recognized on Thursday by the National Football League Players Association, which named Long as the recipient of the 2018 Byron "Whizzer" White Community MVP Award. In recognition, the NFL Players Association will donate $100,000 to The Chris Long Foundation.
Long was announced as this year's winner at the players union's annual Super Bowl press conference on Thursday. The "Whizzer" White Community MVP Award is the highest honor that the NFLPA can bestow on a player for his profound dedication to positively impacting his team's city and communities across the country in the spirit of the former Supreme Court Justice for which the award is named. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins won the award in 2017.
"It means a lot," said Long as he walked to an evening event for the Players Coalition where he was part of a panel discussing civil liberties in our country. "There are so many great men in the NFL who are civic-minded and community-minded. All five of the guys who were honored as finalists easily could have received the award. From really well-known situations like J.J. (Watt, Houston Texans defensive end) helping Houston raise $30 million. He's a hero on the field, off the field. (Colin) Kaepernick, who's put his own money where his mouth is and I hope to see him playing football soon and has continued to be the great activist that he is.
"At all ends of the spectrum it highlights the awesome players we have in our league and it's an honor to be involved. I'm humbled and thankful."
Long was particularly thankful to the fans who have supported his foundation and its causes. It wasn't just about him donating a season's salary to advancing education. No, no, no. It was about all the people who rallied around his mission.
"You want to be responsible and efficient with your charitable contributions and how to use your platform, but just as much we lean on the fans so this is an award for my foundation, but just as important it is an award for the fans of Philadelphia, Boston, and St. Louis. Thank you to everybody who has pitched in and contributed. I am very grateful for all of the support," he said.
Long really expanded his charitable ways as a member of the St. Louis Rams in 2015 when he took a trip to Tanzania and saw the poverty and founded the Waterboys Project. On Waterboys.org, Long writes, "I started Waterboys because I realized I needed to take advantage of the platform that I have as an NFL player to affect change. Around the same time, I went to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. For me, that experience - seeing the poverty, the deficit in quality of life - gave me clarity about how I wanted to make a difference.
"We're lucky enough to work with experienced organizations like WorldServe and have a great donor base in NFL fans. When I recruit other Waterboys, I say, 'Hey, this an easy way to make a difference and do something special. We have a window of opportunity as players to make a real difference, and we can't waste it.'"
Waterboys is near its initial goal of 32 wells – for 32 NFL teams – and Long is expanding more goals to bring clean water to those in need. His work in the educational arena has been "exciting and rewarding."
It is certainly not an easy task to balance the demands of playing in the NFL with making the world better for all of us, but Long has pulled it off. He credits his support team and the enthusiasm of the fans who understood his special interests.
"I can't say enough about the fans and the support they have given me and I can't say enough about the other great men who were finalists," Long said. "I'm truly honored."