Cornerback Jaylon Johnson has been named the Bears' nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Presented by Nationwide, which represents the best of the league's commitment to philanthropy and community impact.
Considered one of the NFL's most prestigious honors, the award recognizes players who have not only exhibited excellence on the field, but whose passion to impact lives extends beyond the game and has led them to leave a positive legacy in their communities.
On the field, Johnson is determined to become the best cornerback in the NFL. Off-the-field, he is deeply committed to community service, much attributed to his childhood friend, Kev'Vion Schrubb, who lost his life to gun violence in 2021. After tragedy hit Johnson's community, he would then fund The Kevvy's Vision Project, a non-profit dedicated to improving opportunities for too often overlooked communities in his hometown of Fresno.
Jaylon and Kev'Vion had been close friends dating back to middle school when they played sports together. Since Kev'Vion's passing, Jaylon has focused on keeping his legacy alive as it was Kev'Vion who would frequently give away free merchandise to the homeless through his clothing brand. Inspired by his friend, Jaylon started Kevvy's Vision Project.
Kevvy's Vision Project has hosted multiple events over the past year, including milestone events and a holiday giveaway to more than 150 families. During the pandemic, Johnson provided holiday relief and support to families with children. With over 100 kids participating in the event, they could paint ornaments, drink hot cocoa, participate in a cake walk and take home a bag of toys. Johnson continues to work with Kevvy's Vision Project to support families in need off-the-field, inspired by his friend and their Fresno community.
"I'm very honored to be nominated for such a prestigious award," said Johnson. "I started the foundation with the intention of keeping my friend Kev'Vion's legacy going. Before the foundation, it was Kev'Vion who would do such important things to help our community. Being in the NFL, I recognize my great fortune to be in the position to do the very things he did every day when he was here with us. With my career in the NFL, my goal is to improve both as a player and as a member of my community. I intend on doing this through Kevvy's Vision Project."
In front of the rest of his teammates, Johnson was informed of the news by coach Matt Eberflus. Walter Payton's widow, Connie, and their son, Jarrett, were on hand for the announcement.
"I'm excited for Jaylon, for what he has accomplished on and off-the-field," said general manager Ryan Poles. "It's important for us, as an organization, to support our players in the initiatives they want to take part in or lead, when giving and leading causes that are close to their heart and benefits communities. Jaylon is such an excellent and determined player who has shown great leadership in the locker room and in his community. He has all the qualities that make him very deserving of this award with all the effort he has given over the years of his young tenure with the Chicago Bears."
As a nominee, Johnson will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
Charles Tillman (2013), Jim Flanigan (2000), Mike Singletary (1990), Dave Duerson (1987) and Walter Payton (1977) have previously won the award as a member of the Bears.
All 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LVII. The 2022 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air the Thursday before Super Bowl LVII on NBC.
All 32 nominees will receive up to a $40,000 donation in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive up to a $250,000 donation to the charity of his choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's 8th annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees. Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee's last name or Twitter handle. The player whose unique mention is used the most between Dec. 6 and Jan. 8 will receive a $25,000 contribution to his charity of choice, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at NFL.com/manoftheyear.