The National Football League has announced that Kansas City Chiefs guard Brian Waters is one of four finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.

Waters, a 1995 graduate of Waxahachie High School, is joined by Miami defensive end Jason Taylor, Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward and Dallas tight end Jason Witten in consideration for the illustrious accolade.

Waters and the other three finalists will be introduced at a press conference on Friday, Feb. 1, by Walter Payton’s widow, Connie Payton, as part of Super Bowl XLII festivities in Glendale, Ariz. The NFL will announce the winner of the award on Sunday, Feb. 3, during Super Bowl XLII pre-game celebrations just prior to kickoff.

“What a humbling honor,” the 6-foot, 3-inch, 320-pound offensive lineman said upon being informed of the news. “All of my accomplishments on the field would mean nothing if I couldn’t contribute to my community. For me, the gridiron serves a greater purpose.”

“Brian Waters has been an outstanding player for the Kansas City Chiefs as well as a major contributor in the community for the past eight years,” said Chiefs president and general manager Carl Peterson. “As all our past Kansas City Chiefs Man-of-the-Year awardees, Brian is most deserving of this consideration for the award that bears Walter Payton’s name.”

The Brian Waters 54 Foundation – Waters wears No. 54 for the Chiefs – was created in 2005 to provide opportunities for underprivileged children and families from low-income areas.

“It’s basically about the kids,” Waters told the Daily Light in a 2007 interview in which he talked about using the NFL as a platform from which he can help people and influence young lives.

“It’s about being able to help them follow their dreams as I’ve followed mine,” he said. “I want to plant the seed in kids to go out and succeed and come back. … That’s what it’s all about.”

The work and focus of the foundation serves those in Waters’ hometown of Waxahachie and the greater Kansas City area. In just a short amount of time and with little fanfare, Waters has impacted thousands of children and families in both communities. Each year, he personally donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to the foundation, not to mention his personal time and effort. A list of the agencies that he has supported includes:

• Dallas and Waxahachie: Promise House (hosted a “Going to Kansas City” field trip for a dozen youth, donates 50 season tickets to Dallas Cowboys games, annual school supply give-a-way for 200 youth, adopts 75 children for the holidays); Habitat for Humanity (donated $46,000 for a house in Ellis County); YMCA and FCA (donates Super Bowl, Pro Bowl and NBA All-Star Game tickets for fundraising events); scholarship fund (donated $50,000 for scholarships in 2007); Waxahachie Pee Wee Football ($25,000 title sponsor for four years, donates tickets for fundraising efforts, donates Cowboys tickets for players); and free football camp (hosts camp for 300 children) and free basketball camp (hosts camp for 150 children). Brian financially supported the Sweet Home Baptist Church Building Fund ($250,000) and Project Safe Place. Waters also hosts an annual “appreciation/fun day” in Waxahachie and is active with his church in Waxahachie.

• Kansas City: Love Fund for Children (provides Chiefs season tickets and hosts monthly pizza parties at the stadium, spokesman for Sack it for Santa, assists with fundraising activities); Kansas City K.E.Y.E.S. (hosted holiday shopping spree for 50 youth); Special Olympics (hosts annual Punt Pass & Kick competition for 50 athletes); First Downs for Down Syndrome (co-chairman for Chiefs offensive linemen and assisting organization in raising $400,000 annually); Play It Smart (volunteer at Central High School); and Willa Gill Center (provided Thanksgiving meal and hooded sweatshirts for 60 children). Waters serves as spokesperson for the What Moves U fitness campaign, Chiefs Think Pink breast cancer awareness campaign and the NFL United Way campaign. Fundraising efforts include the Brian Waters Celebrity Waiters Night, Mrs. Bairds’ Chiefs in the Community and Chiefs Red Friday. He financially supports the Third and Long Foundation (food distribution) and the Chiefs Children’s Fund (youth football fund). Waters helped light the Mayor’s Christmas Tree in Kansas City, Kan., this year and makes appearances throughout the year on behalf of his teammates and the Chiefs organization.

An eight-year NFL veteran, the former North Texas standout became a starter for the Chiefs in 2001 and has remained a vital cog in the team’s offensive line since that point. During his time with the Red and Gold, he has appeared in 116 games making 102 starts. His blocking paved the way for a quartet of Chiefs to achieve Pro Bowl status (quarterback Trent Green: 2003 and 2005, running back Priest Holmes: 2001-03, running back Larry Johnson: 2005-06 and full back Tony Richardson 2003-04). A three-time Pro Bowl performer himself, Waters has become a team leader on and off the field. He is a several-times AFC Player of the Week honoree and also serves as the team’s NFLPA representative.

The prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year award is unique among NFL honors. It is the only NFL acknowledgment that recognizes a player for his community service activities as well as his excellence on the field. The award has been given annually since 1970 and no franchise has garnered more honorees than the Chiefs.

Members of the Red and Gold who have taken home the Gladiator Statue, which is given to the winner, include such current and future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as linebacker Willie Lanier (1972), quarterback Len Dawson (1973), linebacker Derrick Thomas (1993) and guard Will Shields (2003).

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