Payton award shared

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MIAMI - Connie Payton simply couldn't choose between San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and New Orleans' Drew Brees when voting for the award that's given in her husband's memory.

San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson (left) and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees were named co-recipients of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. The award was presented to the pair Friday in Miami.  Associated Press
Associated Press
San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson (left) and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees were named co-recipients of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. The award was presented to the pair Friday in Miami.

"Obviously, I wasn't the only one," Payton said.

Tomlinson and Brees - who finished 1-2 in balloting for The Associated Press' MVP honors - were co-recipients of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. It's the second time the award was shared - Derrick Brooks of Tampa Bay and Jim Flanigan of Chicago were winners for the 2000 season.

"For me, growing up, Walter Payton was the reason why I wanted to play football," said Tomlinson, who set NFL records with 28 rushing touchdowns and 186 points this season. "I remember as a little kid, I was 5 years old, seeing him play and from that point on I told my mother that I wanted to be a football player."

The award honors the Chicago Bears running back who died in 1999 and recognizes a player's role in community service and on-field excellence.

Tomlinson's "L.T.'s 21 Club" works with children, giving them school supplies, tickets to Chargers games and college scholarships. He also spends time with community leaders and law enforcement officials in the San Diego area, plus helps distribute Thanksgiving turkeys and organizes holiday shopping trips for needy kids.

Brees - who threw for an NFL-leading 4,418 yards and an NFC-best 26 touchdown passes in his first season with the Saints - has been active in efforts to rebuild New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

He also still works with charitable causes in San Diego, where he and Tomlinson were teammates from 2001 through 2005.

"What an incredible honor, maybe, truly, the biggest honor that you could receive," Brees said. "And I think that is really a statement because of the man that Walter Payton was and obviously his legacy, and what his family has done to carry on that legacy."

LONDON CALLING: Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga said he was willing to give up a home game and help promote the NFL overseas by playing the New York Giants in London this year.

The game will be Oct. 28 at the new, 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium. It will be the league's first game outside North America.

"We're proud to be part of this historic event," Huizenga said Friday. "It's important for the NFL to move forward on a global basis. If we can make the NFL stronger around the world, we will help."

New coach Cam Cameron said the team will be happy to make the trip, but All-Pro defensive end Jason Taylor conceded some teammates disliked the idea.

"Some guys have had some issues with it, but nothing big," Taylor said. "It's different from driving 20 minutes to the stadium, but it'll be fine. We have no choice now. We're on board and we're excited about it."

An agreement to play the game at Wembley was completed Thursday night, the league said. Twickenham, home of English rugby, was also considered.

Kickoff will be 6 p.m. London time - 1 p.m. on the East Coast. Both teams have byes the following week.

Announcing the game at a luncheon that featured fish and chips, the NFL endured a brief setback in its bid to foster international goodwill. Outspoken London Mayor Ken Livingstone was asked about the American sport coming to town in light of critical comments he has made in the past toward the United States.

"I just look forward to the day when the American people elect a government as great as they are," Livingstone said.

He was followed to the microphone by Huizenga, a Republican.

"I look forward to spending some time with you," Huizenga told Livingstone. "Maybe you and I can talk a little politics when we get over there."

The league expects the Wembley game to sell out quickly. Livingstone said 10,000 Americans are expected to travel to the game.

"It will be a great opportunity to showcase London to new visitors," Livingstone said.

The only other regular-season game abroad was played in 2005, when Arizona beat San Francisco in Mexico City. The NFL has played preseason games overseas for decades and hopes to play regular-season games again in Mexico, as well as in Canada, other cities in Europe, and in Japan, China and Australia.

Huizenga said the Dolphins will invite fans to their stadium to watch the game, and will help arrange for them to make the trip.

"We're not trying to do that to make money," Huizenga said. "We're just trying to get them over there at cost. It's a home game for us. We want to treat it as a home game. We want as many of our fans over there as we can."

Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch described the game as groundbreaking.

"That's what the NFL is all about - always pushing for new opportunities, breaking the barriers and understanding what our product means now on a global basis," Tisch said.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't attend the luncheon, but quarterback Eli Manning said he looked forward to playing overseas.

"It's important for the NFL to try and expand the game," he said.


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