The best year of Benjamin Watson‘s career hasn’t ended yet.
Watson was named one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award on Sunday, joining San Francisco 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the running for the prestigious award.
A panel of judges will select the winner, and the award will be announced during the NFL Honors Show the night before the Super Bowl.
“To me, being involved in the community, being involved in charitable giving is about family,” Watson said. “It’s not something that you simply do through a certain foundation. … it is about an everyday lifestyle.”
Watson, a devout Christian, leads the Watson One More Foundation, spreading “the hope and love of Christ” by buying Christmas shopping sprees for 25 families from a local domestic violence shelter, hosting dinners at the New Orleans Mission and organizing his “Sit Down with a Saint” event.
The 35-year-old tight end is also a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee, a spokesman for the NFL’s “All-Pro Dad” campaign and a participant in the NFL’s “No More” initiative.
Late last year, Watson also became a respected voice on the subject of race, earning him a 2014 nod as one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of the Year, and earning him the ability to write a book, “Under Our Skin,” dealing with his thoughts and hopes for racial reconciliation.
On the field, Watson turned in the best year of his career at 35, setting career bests with 74 catches, 825 yards and six touchdowns as he took over the lead tight end role from Jimmy Graham.
“Benjamin is not only one of our team’s most consistent receivers, but he is also an outstanding leader both in our locker room as a team captain and in our community,” Saints executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis said in a statement. “Benjamin has taken his role as a team captain very seriously and has been a great mentor, resource and role model to younger players in our locker room. In addition, his work through his foundation, commitment to helping those in need and as an advocate against domestic violence make us proud to recognize him with the team honor.”