Browns tight end Gary Barnidge has been named the Cleveland Browns 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year, the team announced Wednesday. Renamed in 1999 after legendary Chicago Bears Pro Football Hall of Fame RB Walter Payton, the accolade is presented to one member of each of the 32 teams, highlighting players’ community service and playing excellence.
Barnidge will formally be presented the award by Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam on Sunday prior to the team’s Week 13 game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“We are proud to present Gary this award for his exceptional contributions on and off the field,” said Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine. “While Gary is statistically having one of his most productive seasons, it is the result of the unwavering work ethic and team-first mentality that he has carried throughout his NFL career, which has significantly impacted the Browns, as well as Cleveland and communities across the world.”
“Gary is extremely deserving of this honor for his consistent dedication to his teammates and the community,” said Browns General Manager Ray Farmer. “He is always eager to do anything possible that benefits the people around him, which is evident by his professionalism and his efforts to improve other people’s lives.”
“It’s an amazing feeling to be able to help others,” Barnidge said after Pettine informed the team that he had been selected as the Browns 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year. “We as NFL players have the ability to reach so many kids by just saying, ‘Hey,’ or spending time with them, and that’s a huge aspect of being an NFL player. No matter what you do, you never know what that person is going through, and just a little gesture can change their day or their whole outlook on life. Through AFWB (American Football Without Barriers), we are also trying to help build the sport from the ground level up, not just by watching but by helping kids play and enjoy the sport that we enjoy playing so much.”
Barnidge, a seventh-year player who joined the Browns as an unrestricted free agent in 2013, has already set career highs in all receiving categories this season, including a team-best 55 receptions and seven touchdowns. Among NFL tight ends, he ranks tied for third in receptions (55), third in receiving yards (758), third in TDs (seven), third in receiving average (13.8), third in 25-yard receptions (eight) and tied for first in third-down receptions (19).