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Updated: February 6th, 2011 6:22pm
Vikings safety Madieu Williams named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year

Vikings safety Madieu Williams named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Few NFL players are as involved in the community as Madieu Williams. Now the Minnesota Vikings' free safety has earned the league's highest community honor.

Williams is the 2010 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, the league announced before the Super Bowl on Sunday.

A seven-year veteran, Williams -- who will receive $20,000 toward his favorite charity -- was unavailable to accept the award because he was visiting U.S. service members in the Persian Gulf.

"It is a tremendous honor to win this award named after Walter Payton, one of the greatest men to ever play in the National Football League," Williams said in a statement released by the Vikings. I'm sorry I couldn't be there to accept the award, but it's an even greater honor to be here in Iraq with Task Force Iron Horse on a goodwill tour watching the Super Bowl with our troops."

Williams is the second Vikings player to earn the award since its inception in 1970, joining Cris Carter (1999). It recognizes off-the-field community service as well as playing excellence.

Though Williams struggled on the field, his community contributions were too strong to overlook. Most notable, he donated $2 million to create the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health at his alma mater, the University of Maryland, to focus on public health issues in Prince George's County and Sierra Leone, where Williams was born.

Williams also built a school in his homeland, with another in the works. And his foundation sponsored a mission to Sierra Leone than flew American teachers, dentists and surgeons to help the school and provide free medical care.

"It is a tremendous honor that Madieu has been named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year," said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who played with Payton with the Chicago Bears in the early 1980s.

"It is quite an accomplishment and one that is well deserved. Madieu is a person that cares about people. He is not your prototypical pro athlete by any means. The fact that he is still taking trips and helping others that are less fortunate says a lot about Madieu. He has no other motivation other than to see someone else's life become better that what it currently is. He is a rare person."

Locally, Williams is involved in the North Community YMCA, the United Way and Harvest Prep/Seed Academy. He provides season tickets for kids through his "Dieu's Crew" program and was named Vikings Community Man of the Year in 2010.

Williams, 29, also hosts a free football camp in Maryland and remains involved in Cincinnati, where he played four seasons with the Bengals before signing with the Vikings in March 2008.

"When Madieu signed here as a free agent, before he caught his plane home, he asked to visit the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital," said Brad Madson, the Vikings' executive director of community relations. "Right then, I knew he was a special man. It's been a privilege to see Madieu embrace our local community through his work with the North Community YMCA and Harvest Preparatory/Seed Academy, but globally, the great works he has done and is doing in Sierra Leone will leave a legacy long after Madieu is done playing football."

Williams is due $5.5 million in salary and bonuses in each of the three remaining seasons on his contract.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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