CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson has been named the team’s 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee.
The award, which will be presented during Super Bowl week during the NFL Honors television special, recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service as well as excellence on the field.
In his sixth season with Carolina, Thompson has emerged as a team leader and has carried that leadership role into serving Charlotte and Sacramento, California — communities that are important to him.
Naturally reserved, Thompson made his voice heard in 2020 while the country struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic and social justice turmoil.
“I’m doing it from my heart,” Thompson said. “If you know me, you know I don’t like a lot of lights on me. I want to step up as a leader — let my voice be heard and my face be shown.”
Early in the spring, Thompson quickly responded to help those on the front lines of the COVID-19 response by donating 2,000 meals to hospital workers. That effort was matched for families in unstable housing situations, when Thompson provided dinners twice a week for displaced, low-income families struggling with temporary living conditions in motels.
“I live here, I love it here,” Thompson said. “I care about this community. I care about people. I want them to see that and know that.”
Thompson also stepped forward during the social unrest, leading a player contingent that met with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney to discuss bridge-building between the police and community while having difficult conversations about police accountability.
He also organized and led a number of players in peaceful community protests to bring further attention to efforts for creating dialogue and response.
This fall, Thompson and teammate Christian McCaffrey partnered to address opportunity access challenges for at-risk youth with the “22 and 54 Together” program, providing $50,000 to cover Police Activities League (PAL) and Boys & Girls Club program fees for low-income youth.
Thompson also continued his ongoing support of youth football with $25,000 in new equipment and uniforms for his high school alma mater, Grant Union High School in Sacramento.
He also established the Thompson Legacy Fund to honor and preserve his late mother, Patty Thompson’s legacy, and the work she did for her community and family. The foundation services low-income students in Sacramento and Charlotte by focusing on mentorship, character development and dental hygiene.
Thompson was selected by his teammates as a team captain for the 2020 season and serves as the Panthers’ NFLPA representative. He currently leads the team with 87 tackles and is on pace for his second consecutive season with over 100 tackles. He would become just the fifth Panthers player with back-to-back 100 tackle seasons.
All 32 nominees will receive 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 a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice.
Panthers fans can support Thompson’s nomination on social media by participating in the 6th annual “Charity Challenge.” Fans can vote on Twitter by using the hashtag #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee’s last name. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most through Jan. 17 will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations.
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