The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award is given to one NFL player every year whose incredible charitable work matches their on-field success. Past winners include all-time greats like Drew Brees and Larry Fitzgerald. Even back to 1970 when it was the NFL Man of the Year Award, players like Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Lynn Swann and Walter Payton himself were honored for their work in the community.
The 2017 winner of that award spearheaded the $41.6 million fundraiser for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, created the Justin J. Watt foundation to bring sports equipment to middle school students across the country, and even donates his time to the coolest pregame ritual in the NFL.
The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year proves time and again he’s the hero every young football fan deserves.
Firefighter Mitchell Lundgaard was killed May 15, 2019, after the Appleton Fire Department responded to a medical call in their Wisconsin town. According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, first responders attended to a 47-year-old man on a public transit bus. That man left the bus, and then police say he displayed a gun and “the incident escalated into shots being fired.”
It was initially unclear exactly what took place, but Lundgaard was shot and killed. A police officer and female bystander were also shot, but both ended up in stable condition. The man later died at a local hospital as a result of his injuries. The report didn’t say how exactly the man died.
A GoFundMe page was created to raise money to help the grieving Lundgaard family, and who should show up on the scene but J.J. Watt.
J.J. Watt Donates $10,000 to Firefighter’s Family
Watt, whose father is a retired firefighter, donated $10,000 to the family of firefighter Michael Lundgaard. That page rolled up over 1,100 donations in the first 17 hours, and neither Watt, nor his foundation, publicly commented on the donation. It’s not the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last, that Watt’s made anonymous donations to families that need it the most.
The previous summer, Watt made a $10,000 donation to Cory Barr’s family after the Sun Prairie Fire Department firefighter was killed, and the family-owned Barr House Tavern was destroyed in a natural gas leak explosion in Wisconsin.
At a time when negative media seems to rule all, seeing positivity in the world makes everything seem alright. Watt truly practices what he preaches and is cementing his legacy off the football field with these random acts of kindness.
This article was originally published May 17, 2019. The GoFundMe for Lundgaard’s family took in more than 4,500 donations totaling over $262,000.