Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson paraphrased a line from the New Testament Saturday night as he accepted the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his COVID-19 relief efforts and other charitable causes during the pandemic.
“To America, to the world, love is patient, love is kind, love changes things,” Wilson said, incorporating part of 1 Corinthians 13:4 into his acceptance speech during the NFL Honors show that aired on CBS the night before Super Bowl Sunday.
The award is given to a player in recognition of his “outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on it.”
Wilson recalled the impact his father, who passed away in 2010, had on his life.
“Dad, I can remember you telling me in the car one day, ‘Son, love changes things.’ Well, dad, you were right. I wish you were here to tell the world that in the toughest of times. 2020 was the most difficult time in history,” Wilson stressed.
“Dad, I know one of your favorite athletes of all-time was Walter Payton. The player he was, but more importantly the man he was, the leader, the giver, the person. Man, dad, I wish you were here for this award,” he added.
Wilson quoted Payton, the hall of fame running back who passed away in 1999, as once saying, “We are stronger together than we are alone.”
“Dad, I think Walter was right,” the Pro Bowl quarterback said. “To the young boy or girl who has a dream, who wants to make a difference. Remember this one thing: love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love changes things. Thank you.”
The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award is one of the most prestigious honors given to an NFL Player. The award was established in 1970 to recognize excellence both on and off the field.
Every season, each of the NFL’s 32 franchises nominates one player to receive the award. As the winner, a $250,000 donation will be made to Russell and Ciara Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation, founded in 2014 to fight poverty through education and youth empowerment.
Each nominee for the award who did not win received a $40,000 donation in their name to their chosen charity.
With 2020 plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson directed his charitable efforts toward feeding children, families and the elderly.
Early in the pandemic, Wilson and his wife, Ciara, donated 1 million meals to Feeding American and Food Lifeline. Wilson also launched the Meals Up campaign in partnership with the aviation company Wheels Up. The program raised the equivalent of more than 50 million meals, according to Seahawks.com.
Wilson’s Why Noy You Foundation partnered with Door Dash, Rockefeller Foundation and United Way Worldwide to bolster the Ride United initiative to deliver supplies and food to 175 communities nationwide.
“Our Why Not You Foundation will continue to lead with love,” Wilson said in his speech. “We will keep fighting poverty through education and empowering the youth to have a ‘why-not-you’ attitude.”
In 2020, Wilson was active in calling for an end to racial injustice. He and Ciarra put up Black Lives Matter billboards in several cities nationwide. He also encouraged voter registration leading up to th 2020 election.
Wilson’s charitable efforts are not new. As NFL.com reports, Wilson has visited Seattle Children’s Hospital every Tuesday during the football season since his 2012 rookie season.
The 31-year-old star, who came to Christ as a teen, has been outspoken about his faith from the very beginning of his football career and regularly says he plays for a higher purpose.
“Jesus is love! At the end of the day, we are all looking for someone to comfort us, somebody to be there for us at all times,” he said in a 2014 interview. “When we are at the worst times of our lives when we are battling with something, or struggles, whatever it may be, when we are at our highest point as well, when things are going really well, we want somebody to comfort us and be there for us and to say, ‘Well done.’ That’s Jesus!”
Speaking with journalist Maria Shriver in 2016, Wilson talked about the national racial divide.
“It’s a lack of love. There’s so much hate in the world. There’s so much back and forth. … For me, it always comes back to the biblical aspect: Corinthians 1:13 talks about faith, hope and love,” Wilson said at the time. “And the greatest of all is love. If we don’t have love, we have nothing.”
In 2019 when Wilson received a four-year, $140 million contract extension from the Seahawks, he gave glory to God.
"My Hallelujah belongs to YOU," he tweeted at the time.