On Thursday morning, the Eagles named Malcolm Jenkins as the team's recipient of the 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The league will announce the winner of the 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, presented by Nationwide, at the NFL Honors ceremony on February 1, 2020, the eve of Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. It is considered the league's most prestigious honor and recognizes a current NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field.
Established in 1970, it was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton. Each team selects one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community. The Eagles also chose Jenkins in 2017.
The winner of the NFL award will receive $250,000 donated to United Way in his name to expand Character Playbook across the country and up to $250,000 donated to the winner's charity of choice. All other 31 nominees will receive a $50,000 donation in their name to expand Character Playbook and up to $50,000 donated to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide, and United Way Worldwide.
"Winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for me would be a huge honor and a way to acknowledge the work of everyone else who has allowed The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation to be what it is," Jenkins said. "And that's every volunteer, every person that we've been able to engage with in the community, every partner, every sponsor, my wonderful board, who has been with us from the beginning, allowing us to operate in four different states.
"That's my mother who has been the president and really the boots on the ground for the foundation since its beginning. If I were to win the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, I think all of these people deserve to be recognized for the great work that they do."
Last year, Chris Long became the third Eagles player to win the NFL award joining Troy Vincent (2002) and Harold Carmichael (1980).
For a decade, Jenkins has been a driving force in the community as well as on the football field. Jenkins' mother, Gwendolyn, told her son that "a closed mouth doesn't get fed." That quote helped inspire Jenkins to launch The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation in 2010 following his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints.
"My mother and I sat down after my first year in the league and we really wanted to concentrate my efforts in the community to one small cause," Jenkins said. "And what we wanted to do was bring a positive change to underserved communities, especially dealing with our youth."
The foundation's work began in New Orleans, but has expanded to help youth in three other areas close to Jenkins: New Jersey (where he grew up), Ohio (where he attended Ohio State University), and Philadelphia (where he plays and resides).
The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation works to establish programs that emphasize mentorship, character development, leadership, education, life skills, and health. One of the staple initiatives, Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S., offers a life skills curriculum program to high school students in under-resourced New Orleans communities and has helped provide more than $130,000 in scholarships to college-bound seniors since 2012. The program's goal is to provide at least $150,000 in scholarships by 2020.
The foundation, in partnership with Drexel University, also hosts a Summer S.T.E.A.M. program called Young Dragons. The free six-week program provided 75 students from Philadelphia's Promise Zone, a two-square-mile area in West Philadelphia that was identified an urban area that lacks resources and faces challenges associated with persistent poverty, with an opportunity to examine technology and science through visual and performance arts and athletics.
Jenkins' foundation has also helped organize an annual event called Get Ready Fest in Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio. The foundation partners with Feed the Children, sponsors, and other community partners to provide pre-identified families with 25 pounds of food, 10 pounds of essential items, and health and wellness products. Over the last six years, the program has helped nearly 15,000 people.
Jenkins has also taken on a leadership role in advocating for criminal justice reform. Over the last four years, with the help of some of his teammates and peers, Jenkins has worked tirelessly to effectuate change in the justice system. In 2017, Jenkins orchestrated two days of key meetings that focused on many of these issues that are prevalent in the state of Pennsylvania. Jenkins attended meetings with politicians and lawmakers at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he helped support bills related to criminal justice reform – namely, Clean Slate legislation.
"When it comes to social justice, and the issues that plague our country, I wanted my contribution to be more than just social media and hashtags and retweets. I wanted to really become part of the solution and use my influence and leverage to really make some change," Jenkins said. "And if there's one thing I know about the sport of football is that it brings people together, whether it's in the stands or it's in a locker room, people from all walks of life are able to come together.
"I think it's important for athletes on any level, but especially pro athletes, to use their platform for more than themselves, more than the monetary gains, but to really make an impact. I can remember, even as a high school player, you have middle school and Pop Warner kids who look up to you. We're role models, pretty much our entire lives. Every time we put this helmet and our shoulder pads on, people look up to us and people look to us as the example. I feel like that responsibility requires us to do more than just entertain on Sundays.
"I think the more we stretch ourselves, the more we push those limits, the more impact we can have. And I think at the end of the day, I want to be considered more than just an athlete. I want to be known for what I've done as a human being, what I've been able to contribute to society. And how did I make this world better? My football career is only a small piece of the story."
In addition to his efforts to create systemic change and his foundation's work to create change for individuals, Jenkins helped co-found the Players Coalition with 2015 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year winner Anquan Bolden in 2017. The Players Coalition inspires the next generation and challenge dominant power structures, build mass popular support, and use culture to shift policy and change lives. The Players Coalition aims to do this by tackling key issues with guidance from a variety of evidence-based, subject matter experts.
Jenkins was the recipient of the NFLPA's Byron "Whizzer" White Award for outstanding charitable efforts off the field in 2017. Jenkins joined Vincent, Brian Dawkins, and Reggie White as Eagles who have previously won the Byron "Whizzer" White Award. Byron "Whizzer" White led the NFL in rushing yards in 1938 and 1940 and later served as a Supreme Court Justice from 1962-93.
In 2019, Jenkins continued his lifetime of service with efforts to further systemic change for the disenfranchised, disadvantaged, and underrepresented people of Philadelphia and beyond.
Just days after this year's Super Bowl, Jenkins attended the Smart Justice California Retreat & Policy Summit to address probation, re-entry, and mass incarceration. The group visited a state prison followed by a one-on-one conversation with Adnan Khan, who had the first 25-years-to-life sentence be commuted by the governor at the end of 2018 thanks to the passage of SB 1437, which amended California's felony murder rule and ended the practice of sentencing non-killers to life in prison.
In April 2019, Jenkins was part of a group that joined Pennsylvania state lawmakers on a tour of neighborhoods impacted by the state's enhanced sentences for drug trafficking in a school zone. The tour physically showed participants how school zone laws are overbroad and have targeted communities of color – and why their mandatory penalties should not be reinstated.
Later that month, Jenkins helped host a community forum with Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) District Attorney candidates to talk about criminal justice reform. The candidate forum featured discussions on the candidates' positions on key criminal justice reform issues and how they can be implemented at the local level to create a fairer justice system and improve public safety in Allegheny County.
In June 2019, Jenkins received both the McSilver Award as a Vanguard for Social Justice from the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University and the Community Hero Award at the Community College of Philadelphia. The McSilver Award recognizes activists who are prominent in their fields and unafraid to use their platforms to help create a more equitable and just world. Jenkins also received the Community Hero Award for his service in education and economic advancement in low-income communities, criminal justice reform, and police-community relations.
That same month, Jenkins attended Michelle Obama's Beating the Odds Summit to support students who have overcome obstacles to graduate from high school and commit to continue their higher education. He participated in an hour-long panel discussion with the former first lady to discuss topics about navigating your first year of college, career-building skills, and ways to succeed in and out of the classroom. Jenkins also lent his support for the Clean Slate Act in support of the passage of the bill to encourage the thousands of Pennsylvanians who qualify to take action beginning June 28.
On the field, Jenkins has proven to be one of the most important free agent signings in Eagles history. Since his arrival in 2014, Jenkins has been named to the Pro Bowl three times, while also leading the defense on the 2017 team that captured the first Super Bowl Championship in franchise history. Jenkins' teammates named him a team captain every year since the team implemented full-year captains in 2017. A true student of the game and a dynamic playmaker from the safety position, Jenkins is one of only five NFL players to record at least six interceptions returned for touchdowns since he entered the league with New Orleans in 2009. He is also one of the most reliable players as he has not missed a single snap on defense since the Eagles rested starters for the playoffs in the 2017 regular-season finale. This season, Jenkins leads the Eagles with 91 tackles, to go along with seven quarterback hits and pressures, six pass breakups, five tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles.
"Just very consistent. And that's a hallmark of Malcolm: consistency," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said of Jenkins on Wednesday. "That consistency isn't by accident. His approach is the same every week. He's a very resilient player, he's a very disciplined player, takes care of his body, takes care of his mind, practices hard, studies hard, he's smart, he's multidimensional. All that leads to consistent performances from week to week.
"There's not much on the football field that you don't have confidence giving Malcolm to do and he's proven that over the course of not just this year, but over his long career."
Through his dedication and commitment to community efforts this year in and years past, his consistency in displaying positive character and modeling a life of giving back to others, and his excellence on the field, Jenkins is a very deserving recipient of the Philadelphia Eagles 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.