The NFL finally has caught up with what fans of Kansas University football have known for years — Darrell Stuckey is one heck of a guy.
Stuckey, the sixth-year NFL pro and 2010 KU graduate who starred in KU’s secondary and helped the Jayhawks win the 2008 Orange Bowl, recently was named the San Diego Chargers’ representative for this year’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
Each year, one player from all 32 NFL teams is nominated and this year the Chargers made Stuckey their selection.
Recognition and praise for his efforts beyond football certainly is nothing new for Stuckey. Since high school, the Kansas City, Kansas, native has done his part to give back to his community with particular interest paid to helping children and religion.
In 2010, Stuckey was named the Big 12 Sportsman of the Year for the 2009-10 seasons.
In addition to participating in numerous community outreach programs like visits to children’s hospitals and free football clinics, Stuckey, a Pro Bowl selection in 2014, also started an organization known as “Living4One,” an organization that aims to “help people discover that they were created to influence the world in a positive way” through living for Jesus.”
Being nominated for an award as prestigious as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, however, takes things to a new level even for Stuckey.
Established in 1970 and attached to the late Chicago Bears running back’s name since 1999, The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award is given annually by the NFL to honor a player’s volunteer and charity work as well as his excellence on the field.
Each of the 32 team nominees receives a $5,000 donation to their charity of choice. Two runner-ups will receive an additional $6,000 donation, and the winner will receive an additional $50,000 donation. Donations will be courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
“Serving their communities and philanthropic causes is a strong and long-standing tradition of NFL players,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a release. “These outstanding young men embrace and represent that important commitment of giving back to our communities. We salute and thank our players for their leadership.”
Stuckey has chosen the organization “Teammates for Kids,” founded by country star Garth Brooks, as his charity.
“The organization doesn’t limit itself to helping one specific charity but branching out to help as many as possible,” Stuckey said in a Chargers promotional video. “I’ve been involved with that cause, off and on, for the last three or four years and it’s been an awesome opportunity.”
Fans interested in helping Stuckey reach the finals can simply use the hashtag #StuckeyWPMOYChallenge on social media sites.
Finalists will be announced in January and the winner will be announced during the fifth Annual NFL Honors awards show, a two-hour primetime special airing nationally on Feb. 6, the night before Super Bowl 50 on CBS.
To Ryan, with love
Say what you will about Kansas State coach Bill Snyder and his dominance of the Jayhawks over the years. That has not taken away from the man’s ability to operate as a classy individual.
We’ve seen plenty of instances of this throughout the years and we recently got another one when KU quarterback Ryan Willis, who just wrapped up his freshman season as KU’s all-time leading freshman passer, posted to Twitter a note he got from Snyder following last week’s 45-14 K-State win in the season finale.
The handwritten note, in purple ink, read: “Sorry I didn’t get to see you after the game Ryan. Very proud of you and the manner in which you led your teammates. You are becoming a very fine QB & great teammate. Please wish them my best & let them know I appreciate their never give in attitude. — Coach Snyder. And my best to your folks.”
Before you go off about the purple ink or the fact that Snyder should stick to worrying about his own players, remember that Willis’ dad, Steve, is a former K-State football player and the young man, though not seriously, was recruited by K-State out of Bishop Miege High School.
The Snyder way has long been synonymous with “family” and this kind of gesture shows what that’s all about. Like it or hate it — like him or hate him — you have to at least tip your cap to Snyder’s sportsmanship and the fact that receiving the note clearly meant a lot to one of the KU football program’s most promising young players.