By Amy Tennery
MIAMI (Reuters) – Jacksonville Jaguars’ Calais Campbell took home the Walter Payton Man of the Year prize on Saturday, while the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors went to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The 12-year veteran defensive end Campbell won in recognition of his charitable work, primarily mentoring and educating children, while Jackson was the first player since New England Patriot Tom Brady in 2010 to be voted for unanimously for MVP.
Campbell founded his CRC Foundation in 2009, naming it for his late father, who died when he was 17.
“It’s a hard moment but he left me with so many life lessons,” said Campbell after accepting the award, reflecting on his father’s death.
“Failures become lessons if we learn from them and never give up,” he said. “(I hope) to inspire people, to encourage people to believe dreams are achievable if you put the work in.”
The five-time Pro Bowler began the ‘Campbell Season of Giving’ during the 2019 season, pledging to donate $1,000 for every Jaguars win, $5,000 for every sack, $2,500 for every half sack, and $2,000 for every tackle for a loss.
The rubric made for quite the windfall, with Campbell registering defensive stats that included six and a half sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
The evening’s top prize for on-field performance went to quarterback Jackson, who capped his stellar season with the NFL’s MVP honor.
Throwing for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns in the regular season, Jackson was an early favorite for MVP, with the 23-year-old having led the Ravens to a 14-2 regular season record.
Jackson, who grew up in Pompano Beach, Florida, told reporters he was not caught up in sharing the unanimous vote distinction with six-time Super Bowl champ Brady, and said he owes his success to his teammates.
“I’m just playing ball at the end of the day,” the first-round pick out of Louisville said. “I’m still young… I’m not trying to dwell on what I did.”
The MVP prize caps a remarkable turn for Jackson, who in his rookie year faced criticism that he was better suited to be a running back than a passer.
Jackson told reporters he would encourage other young players to brush off similar doubts. “It can feel so good when you can make those people eat their words,” he said.
Other honorees included New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who claimed the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award, and New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, who won AP Offensive Player of the Year.
(Reporting By Amy Tennery, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)