ALAMEDA, Calif. — Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead was named the team’s 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award nominee on Thursday.
Each team nominates one player for the honor, which is designed to recognize outstanding achievement both on and off the field. The Raiders cited Whitehead’s charitable endeavors — including his participation in the Crucial Catch initiative for cancer awareness, hospital visits and support of homeless veterans — as examples of his leadership off the field. On it, Whitehead has taken over as the Raiders’ defensive signal-caller since the suspension of Vontaze Burfict and leads the team in tackles.
“For me, obviously it’s one of the biggest honors in the NFL that you can be nominated for, and it’s extremely humbling,” Whitehead said following Thursday’s practice. “At the end of the day, we’re mentors in every sense of the word. And as much as some guys don’t want to be, we’re put in certain positions that you have to be that shining light, that inspiration for those who aspire to get to this level. So for me, it’s always been you’ve got to give back.”
Whitehead will wear a decal on his helmet for the rest of the season in recognition of his nomination. He also will receiver $50,000 for a charity of his choosing. Whitehead said he’s pinpointed two organizations for the donation — one being the Downton Detroit Boxing Gym Youth Program, which he also supported for the “My Cause, My Cleats” NFL campaign. And he’ll be supporting the Training Recreation Education Center in his hometown of Newark, N.J.
Recent leaguewide winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award include Texans defensive end J.J. Watt in 2017 and former Eagles defensive end Chris Long in 2018.