NEW ORLEANS -- Cleveland Browns left tackle
“This is really humbling,” Thomas said. “Just to be named with Walter Payton in the same sentence, to see myself as a finalist with Larry Fitzgerald and Jason Witten, guys that I think are going to be in the Hall of Fame some day, is a humbling experience, no question.
“I want to thank the Payton family for putting together a fantastic award and all the charitable work that they’ve done over the years. This is one of the highest awards an NFL player can receive, and I’m truly humbled to be nominated for this award. We, as NFL players, have been given a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in our communities, in the cities that we live and play in. These two other finalists here with me have done a fantastic job, and they’ve really maximized that opportunity to change other peoples’ lives.”
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam attended the Walter Payton Man of the Year press conference and offered words of congratulations to Thomas following the introduction.
“It doesn’t get any better, a great player, a great guy,” Haslam said. “The league and the Cleveland Browns need a lot more, and Witten and Fitzgerald are the same kind of guys. We know Witten’s from Tennessee and they’re just quality people and great players. It’s great for the league.”
Thomas earned the nomination after working with many charities in the Cleveland area, including the Cleveland Foodbank, the Kids in Need Resource Center and the USO of Northern Ohio. Three years ago, Thomas joined the NFL-USO tour and visited U.S. troops at military bases in the Middle East.
“We’re given a tremendous opportunity to do good in our communities, and I think it’s our obligation, it’s our duty to give back because of all the fans and all the cities have done for us,” Thomas said.