Updated, 5:55 p.m. ET
The New York Jets have named wide receiver Eric Decker as the team's 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Through the Eric and Jessie Decker Foundation and the New York Jets community relations department, Decker has impacted many lives throughout the country. As the Jets' award winner, he will receive a $5,000 donation to EJDF, his 501(c)(3) organization of choice.
Decker is eligible to win the national Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and be recognized at a news conference during Super Bowl week in San Francisco. The national winner will receive $50,000 to donate to the 501(c)(3) organization of his choice. Since 1970, the NFL has awarded the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award to recognize a player's off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
"It's a great award, probably the biggest nomination I've gotten in my career," Decker said today in the Jets' locker room. "Getting to the Super Bowl, statistics, they're all great things, but I think the bigger picture is what you do outside the building. Our foundation is still young and I feel like we're at a good starting point. We want to build it into something bigger and special. To be recognized for it is definitely humbling."
One of the goals of Decker and his wife, Jessie, is to strive to positively impact the lives of U.S. military service members and veterans as well as animals through their foundation. EJDF is committed to helping those who have served our country via Deckers Dogs, which helps fund the rescue, care and training of service dogs for military veterans returning home with physical disabilities and emotional challenges.
Deckers Dogs directly supports Freedom Service Dogs of America (FSD), a Colorado-based non-profit organization. FSD helps veterans and their families in their darkest hours while also freeing a shelter dog, allowing it to have a second lease on life supporting a veteran. Service dogs provide a vital support system for wounded warriors with post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and pain and mobility issues that can be so debilitating that they lead to suicide.
For a typical service dog, the journey from shelter to service costs about $25,000. Since 2013, Deckers Dogs is proud to have funded the care and custom training of six service dogs. Four of these dogs are already hard at work serving veterans and families in need.
Rommy, the first Deckers Dog, graduated in December 2013 and is living with veteran Shon. Decker, the second dog, was matched with veteran Diane in 2014. Harmony, the third Deckers Dog, was matched with Paul in December 2014. EJDF's fourth dog, Marbles, was matched with John this spring, and the fifth dog, Fresca, was rescued from a shelter in New Mexico this fall and has begun her training at the FSD facility. The sixth dog will be selected and matched with a veteran in the spring of 2016.
Decker has also given his time and energy to other causes close to his heart, such as anti-bullying awareness. While in high school, he experienced a shooting during class that was a result of bullying. This fall he became the ambassador of the Jets Tackle Bullying campaign in conjunction with STOMP Out Bullying, the leading anti-bullying organization in the nation.
The campaign aims to raise awareness through a public service announcement featuring Decker as well as through the distribution of 1,000 free educator toolkits to tristate area schools. Decker will visit schools that implement change and improve culture.
Decker will be vying with the Payton candidates from the league's 31 other teams for the national award. Should he be named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in February, he would join defensive tackle Marty Lyons (1984) and quarterback Boomer Esiason (1995) as Jets who received the honor, presented annually by the NFL since 1970 and renamed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame running back and humanitarian, who won the award in 1977, shortly after his death in 1999.