2012 was not a kind year for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on the football field. He posted near career lows in almost every offensive category as the result of terrible quarterback play for almost the entire season. After a 4-0 start, his team floundered its way to a 5-11 record. He was frustrated for much of the season and even made a few mistakes himself.
However, off the field, he is still a superstar, and is being recognized by the league for it. He is one of three finalists for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which is awarded for off the field charity work. The other finalists are Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will be announced in New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XLVII, during the second annual NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Saturday, February 2, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. on CBS.
Recent winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award include Matt Birk of the Baltimore Ravens, Madieu Williams, then of the Minnesota Vikings (2010) and Brian Waters, then of the Kansas City Chiefs (2009).
The three finalists were chosen from among the 32 team nominees for the award, all of whom receive a $1,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice. All three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name. The selection panel is comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, 2011 winner Matt Birk, and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive the Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, Daniel Schwartz. In addition, the player's favorite charity will receive an additional $20,000 donation in his name.
Fitzgerald was the winner of the team's Man of the Year Award.
In August of 2012, he was honored with Pro Football Weekly's Humanitarian of the Year Award for his outstanding community and charitable contributions. Through his two foundations-the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund and the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund, he has helped thousands by providing funds for kids and families in crisis and to honor his late mother, Carol, has been heavily involved in furthering breast cancer awareness and research. He has served as a spokesman for the NFL's A Crucial Catch campaign each of the last three seasons, donating funds for each reception and TD reception during the month of October.
Globally, Fitzgerald has done extensive work with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, providing hearing aids for those in need throughout Africa. He has also traveled to Ethiopia with good friend and former teammate Anquan Boldin on behalf of Oxfam America, helping work on irrigation systems and digging wells in local communities. As part of his strong support of the military, Fitzgerald has helped raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, which benefits injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Force; he also joined other NFL players on a USO Tour of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009.
Fitz is truly amazing as a person. He takes is star status seriously. As a result, he is a joy to watch on the field and he does essential work off the field.
Keep up with Cardinals news and opinions when you are not on the site. Follow Revenge of the Birds on Twitter at @revengeofbirds and "like" us on Facebook. You can follow me individually at @senorjessroot.