Marty Lyons has always believed in the concept of serving others.
In 1984, while in the prime of his 11-year NFL career, he was named Walter Payton Man of the Year, an honor that annually recognizes a player’s volunteer and charity work as well as excellence on the field.
Fifteen months ago, he won the sixth annual Heisman Humanitarian Award.
And today, the former Jets defensive tackle will be recognized at a ceremony inside the Pierre Hotel in New York City as the winner of this year’s Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service by a Professional Athlete.
The ceremony is scheduled to run from noon-2 p.m. ET and will be hosted by CBS newscaster Lesley Stahl.
The national recognition displays Lyons’ sustained commitment to the Marty Lyons Foundation along with his generous support of many charitable causes. The foundation was established 31 years ago after the passing of his father, the birth of his eldest son; and the passing of a little boy for whom Lyons was a Big Brother. Its mission is to fulfill the special wishes of children 3 to 17 years of age who have been diagnosed with a terminal or life-threatening illness.
The foundation has granted over 6,000 wishes since its creation and features 13 chapters covering New York, New Jersey, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Presenting Lyons’ award will be 15-year NFL veteran Troy Vincent, who is the senior vice president of NFL Player Engagement and last year was the recipient of the same award. Besides Lyons and Vincent, other previous recipients of the Jefferson Award are former NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and NHL Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine.
The Jefferson Awards were founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard as the “Nobel Prize for public service.” Named for one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, the Jefferson Awards’ central tenet is that every citizen shares a responsibility to work toward the betterment of his and her communities through economic participation, public service, volunteerism and other efforts to improve life for all.
The day mission of the Jefferson Awards is to recognize, inspire and activate volunteerism and public service in communities, workplaces and across America. As President John F. Kennedy said, “One person can make a difference and every person should try.” More than 50,000 individuals of all ages have been recognized by the program for their efforts to make the world around them a better place.
The Jefferson Awards have 110 local newspapers and television and radio stations serving as media partners in more than 50 communities, and 23 “Champions” highlight service and excellence in the workplace, including Nationwide, Aramark, Heinz, Safeway, Prudential and National Grid.
Lyons, a member of the Jets’ “New York Sack Exchange,” along with Joe Klecko, Mark Gastineau and Abdul Salaam, was the Green & White’s first-round draft selection in 1979. Prior to entering the NFL, he attended the University of Alabama, where he was coached by the late Paul “Bear” Bryant. As a senior, he was a consensus All-America first-teamer. After playing in 147 professional games and recording 29 sacks, his NFL career concluded in 1989. Today, along with serving as the chairman of his foundation, he is also the Jets' radio analyst.
Other Jefferson Award winners that will be recognized at the ceremony are the Robin Hood Foundation, Gerald Chertavian, and three young “Globe-Changers.”
The Robin Hood Foundation will receive the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award. Hailed by Fortune magazine as “one of the most innovative and influential philanthropic organizations of our time,” Robin Hood has donated $1.25 billion since 1988 to end poverty in New York City.
Chertavian, who will be honored with the award for Outstanding Service by an Entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of Year Up, an organization that provides training to low-income youth.
Recipients of the “Globe-Changers” youth service award include a Yale University senior whose international non-profit Girls Helping Girls has trained and mentored thousands of girls worldwide to incubate entrepreneurial projects in more than 20 countries; a 22-year-old coder whose organization Code The Change has generated over $250,000 worth of value for the social sector, and a Pittsburgh teenager whose military-veteran-focused group Seeds of Hope is expanding nationwide.