by Brandon Langlois, Associate Director/Communications
STARKVILLE – Former Mississippi State football standouts quarterback Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys) and K.J. Wright (Seattle Seahawks) were named nominees Thursday for the 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Presented by Nationwide, the award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
All 32 teams have a nominee, and the winner will be announced Feb. 2 during the "NFL Honors" awards special on Super Bowl weekend.
MSU is one of only five schools (two from the Southeastern Conference) to have multiple nominees for the award. The others schools are California, Florida, Illinois and Oklahoma.
Fans can vote for Prescott and Wright by using #WPMOYChallenge on Twitter with the nominee's last name somewhere in the post between Dec. 6 and Jan. 13. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, courtesy of Nationwide. More information on Prescott and Wright's nominations, hashtag information and official rules can be found at nfl.com/manoftheyear.
A four-year letterman from 2012-15, Prescott has long been a leader both on the field and in the community. During his senior season with the Bulldogs in 2015, he won the Senior CLASS Award honoring the attributes of student-athletes in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition. The owner of two academic degrees from MSU, Prescott is also the school's most decorated player having shattered 38 school records and leading the Bulldogs to their first No. 1 national ranking.
In honor of his late mother, Peggy, Prescott created his Fight Finish Faith Foundation to empower individuals, families, and communities to find strength through adversity. The foundation focuses on fighting cancer and offering assistance to those facing life-challenging hardships. Prescott also supports youth initiatives, partnering with the Just Keep Livin Foundation that implements after-school fitness and wellness programs in inner-city high schools.
Prescott became the highest drafted Mississippi State quarterback in modern NFL Draft history when the Cowboys called his name in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The 2016 Pro Bowl selection has thrown for 9,667 yards and 59 touchdowns and rushed for 940 yards and 17 touchdowns in 44 games played with Dallas.
A Pro Bowler in 2017 and member of the Super Bowl XLVIII championship team, Wright has made a positive impact both on and off the field. This past offseason, he traveled to Kenya, where he delivered books and helped teach English to children in Kenya's Maasai Mara region. In October, he announced his continued commitment to make a difference in Kenya and pledged to donate $300 for every tackle he records this season. The money will go towards the construction of a fresh-water well for the primary school in Maasai Mara. The campaign also includes a fundraising platform allowing fans to donate to the cause – the fund has raised more than $20,000 to date. Wright plans to return to Kenya in 2019.
Wright serves as a mentor for Future Leaders, working with inner city youth to help them learn basics of entrepreneurship and technology to solve problems in their community. He is also a mentor for area youth through Rainier Athletes, a local program to support and motivate students to achieve their greatest potential. For the past two years, Wright has also worked with area youth through the NFL's Character Playbook, which teaches middle school students how to build healthy relationships and make good decisions.
Wright, from Olive Branch, Mississippi, lettered at MSU from 2007-10 and started 35 of 47 games played. He finished his collegiate career with 259 tackles (131 solo), including nine sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hurries.
For more information on the Bulldogs, follow the MSU football team on Twitter, like them on Facebook and join them on Instagram by searching for "HailStateFB." All-access coverage is also available on SnapChat by searching for "HailStateSnap.