Veteran outside linebacker Sam Acho has been selected as the Bears' nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for the second year in a row.
The prestigious honor is the only league award that recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well as his performance on the field. It has been in existence since 1970 and rewards NFL players who demonstrate outstanding balance in their lives between civic and professional responsibilities.
Bears outside linebacker Sam Acho talks to children at a charity event.
In 1999, the league renamed the Man of the Year award after Walter Payton as a tribute to his greatness both on and off the field. The legendary Hall of Fame running back passed away on Nov. 1, 1999 at the age of 45 due to bile duct cancer.
"The Walter Payton Man of the Year award means everything to me, especially to win it for the second year in a row," Acho said. "This is my seventh year in the NFL and in seven years you go through a lot of ups and downs, wins and losses. I've been in the playoffs, I've had a lot of good and bad happen. But this is definitely a highlight for me."
Playing for the same organization as Payton makes the honor even more special for Acho.
"Being a Chicago Bear and being able to receive the award that's named after a former Chicago Bear means a lot and it carries a lot of weight, not only for me but also for the people in this community, the people in this city, the people who cared about Walter Payton, who still care about Walter Payton, and people who care about the Chicago Bears," Acho said.
"I'm just lucky to be in these shoes because I didn't know I was going to win this award or be nominated for this award. I didn't come here with that goal or plan in mind. But God has kind of worked it out and now I'm here in Chicago being a second year nominee for this award. The goal this year is to be a finalist and hopefully win."
Acho actively supports Living Hope Christian Ministries, which his parents founded in 1989. Dr. Sonny Acho and Christy Acho return to their native Nigeria each year with a team of volunteer doctors, surgeons, nurses, volunteers, and pharmacists to provide free medical care.
Too often, people in Nigeria are at risk of death, due to the lack of medical services and supplies available to them for preventable or treatable healthy problems, such as insect bites, injuries and the stomach flu. With the free treatment from the doctors and nurses on the LHCM mission trips arranged, the people in Nigeria have been afforded longer and more fulfilling lives. Acho has traveled with the group over 10 times.
Acho hosted his second annual celebrity waiter night this past September, raising over $75,000 to expand the work LHCM does and support their newly opened medical center in Nigeria. The event raised $60,000 the year prior to help build the medical center. For more information about LHCM, visit livinghopeministries.us/.
Acho also makes regular appearances at local schools and hospitals with the Chicago Bears community relations department and Bears School Outreach program, in addition to supporting Cornerstone Community Outreach, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago and Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. Acho also serves as an NFL Fuel Up to Play 60 Player Ambassador and American Diabetes Association Team Tackle member, through which he has lobbied on Capitol Hill to help raise awareness for diabetes.
Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was named the 2013 Walter Payton Man of the Year, marking the franchise's fifth player to be honored with the award. The team's other winners have included Payton (1977), Dave Duerson (1987), Mike Singletary (1990) and Jim Flanigan (2000).
Three of the nominees will be selected as finalists for the national award. Finalists will be announced in January. The winner will be revealed in Minneapolis at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Feb. 3, the night before Super Bowl LII.
Starting in Week 14, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year trophy silhouette will appear in uniform elements to further recognize past award winners and current nominees. Acho will wear a Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season.
Five hundred thousand dollars will be donated in the name of the 2017 winner; $250,000 will be donated to the winner's charity of choice and $250,000 will be donated in his name to expand Character Playbook across the country. The two other finalists will each receive a $100,000 donation to their charity of choice and a $100,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook. All other 29 nominees will receive a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice and an additional $50,000 donation in their name to expand Character Playbook. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and United Way Worldwide.
The NFL announced last month a Super Bowl Ticket Giveaway, a new initiative this season to surprise fans across the country with an invitation to attend Super Bowl LII in Minnesota. As a Man of the Year nominee, Acho received two Super Bowl LII tickets to give away to community heroes.
To learn more about Acho's nomination, visit NFL.com/manoftheyear.