When outside linebacker
For his work in the community, Sheard was honored with the Browns’ 2013 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and will now be one of 32 players to complete for the league’s highest honor for community efforts.
“It’s an honor to be selected for this award,” Sheard said. “Walter Payton was a great man on and off the field, and it’s humbling to be mentioned with him. Educating youth, especially here in our Cleveland community, is something that is very important to me, as well as helping those less fortunate.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Sheard was “very deserving of this recognition.”
“When I first met Jabaal, I could tell right away there was something special about him,” Chudzinski said. “Jabaal carries a quiet relentlessness on the field, and is an outstanding football player, but off the field, he really separates himself because he’s an MVP in our community and a great ambassador for our organization. It’s genuinely important to him, and we’re very proud that Jabaal Sheard wears our uniform every Sunday.”
Sheard has participated in many charitable events throughout his time in Cleveland, and his focus has been on education and helping children.
This year alone, Sheard has visited the Garfield Heights Library to read a patriotic-themed book to children, as well as multiple schools to encourage students to exercise for 60 minutes daily, live a healthy lifestyle, and raise food and money for the Cleveland Foodbank. He also helped build a playground during the NFL’s annual day of service, Hometown Huddle, in October, and delivered Christmas gifts to patients at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.
“It’s just amazing to see a smile on a kid’s face,” Sheard said. “It just brightens up your day. Anything you could be going through at the time, it just evaporates. You’re more focused on the kids.
“We’ve been through a lot of changes. We had a rocky season, but that’s life and kind my background. It starts out rough and you just keep working hard and improve as time goes on, never get down, just keep believing.”
In addition, to his many visits, on behalf of the Browns, Sheard recently partnered with United Way to form “Team Sheard,” which was created to encourage volunteerism and mentorship to reduce the high-school dropout rate.
“I grew up in a rough neighborhood,” Sheard said. “Nobody really came over there, and when I got out, it was like, ‘Why me? How did I make it out?’ I guess I just always had something in me that I knew this wasn’t where I was supposed to be just to show kids that they could get out of there. ‘You don’t have to be where you’re at now. You can be that one, special kid that gets out of whatever situation they’re in.’
“I never had someone come out in the community who’s in the NFL, who’s elite, and I just try to remind the kids, ‘You can be anything you want to be. If you see it, anything’s possible.’”