At age 36 and in his 14th NFL season, Tony Richardson has an impressive on-the-field resume, but today he was recognized for his off-the-field contributions as well.
The New York Jetsnamed fullback Richardson as the Club's 2008 Walter Payton Man of the Year. Through his Rich in Spirit Foundation and the Jets Community Relations Department, Richardson has impacted many lives throughout the country. As the Jets' award winner, Richardson will receive $1,000 to donate to the Rich in Spirit Foundation, his 501(c)(3) organization of choice. Richardson is eligible to win the national Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and be recognized at a press conference during Super Bowl week in Florida. The national winner will receive $25,000 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.
"I think it's just kind of how I was raised," Richardson said, "being born in Germany and kind of growing up in a diverse background. My parents taught me that you don't judge people for the color of their skin or anything like that because we're all the same people. I think that helped me out a lot. I can go into a situation and more so try to meet the need, versus trying to judge the situation. Whatever situation it is, if I see someone in need, I try to help them out regardless of where they come from, where I come from, their background or anything like that."
NFL Charities requires a panel of no less than six people to vote for the Man of the Year winner. Two-thirds (2/3) of the panel must be external members from outside organizations, including one media representative and one non-profit/government representative. This year's panel included Dan Leberfeld, Publisher, Jets Confidential, C. J. Papa, Islanders Reporter, MSG Network, Brooks Thomas, Director of Sports Special Events for the New York March of Dimes, Laura Dyer, Assistant Vice President Strategic Events and Community Relations for Davis Vision and two representatives from the Jets Community Relations Department.
"It feels good," Richardson said. "Obviously, I don't do charity events to receive awards, I think those are things you should do on your own, but the fact you are recognized for something that you're doing — helping other people — it does make you feel pretty good."
Richardson established the Rich in Spirit Foundation in 1999 to extend a helping hand in order to uplift the lives and spirits of individuals, with particular attention to enhancing personal growth in children. Since its inception, this three-time Pro Bowl fullback has personally donated more than $1 million and made more than 1,000 appearances. Richardson was named Pro Football Weekly's "Arthur S. Arkush Humanitarian of the Year" in 2003; recipient of the 2006 OverTime Magazine's OTX Lifelong Service Award; received the 2005 Distinguished Citizen Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice, an organization dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry and racism in America; recipient of the 2002 Pop Warner Round Table Award; and voted an "NFL Good Guy" for five consecutive years by the Sporting News.
"I consider it to be an honor to be the Jets Man of the Year," Richardson said.
Richardson currently serves as spokesperson for the New York Jets and Lime Connect, Inc. Be a Champion disability awareness campaign. Richardson's efforts have benefited those in Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey. He runs all foundation activities and has no paid staff.