Jonathan Allen is known by Washington Football Team fans as one of top defensive linemen in the league, an intense competitor and reliable leader.
His wife, Hannah Allen, sees all that as well, but the Jonathan she knows off the field is the person who is dedicated to helping kids growing up in the foster care system have a better life.
"He's not just being invited to do a volunteer event, showing up and giving money and leaving and never going back," Hannah said. "He's doing it because he wants to be there, and he wants to put everything he has in what he's doing."
That kind of commitment is why Allen has been chosen as Washington's nominee for the NFL's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, presented by Nationwide. Considered the League's most prestigious honor, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes NFL players who have not only exhibited excellence on-the-field, but whose passion to impact lives extends beyond the game and has led them to leave a positive legacy in their communities.
"Jonathan is probably one of the most focused and determined individuals I've ever met," Jonathan's father, Richard Allen Jr., said of his son. "He's very compassionate and has sympathy for people."
"As I was last year, I am tremendously humbled to be selected as the Washington Football Team's selection as the Walter Payton Man of the Year," Jonathan said. "My favorite part about this honor is that it allows me to help even more people, which is truly my ultimate mission."
Much of Jonathan and Hannah's time and financial contributions have been spent on providing resources to Sasha Bruce Youthworks (SBY), which is a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC that helps homeless youth find safe homes, achieve and maintain good physical and mental health, create and strengthen supportive and stable families, and explore opportunities in education and careers. Allen spent a portion of his children in the foster care system, so he knows better than most what kids at Sasha Bruce are going through.
"We not only wanted to give money and resources; we also wanted to give time," Allen said in a first-person story on NFL.com. "Because at the end of the day, kids who are going through trauma need to know -- and should know -- people are in their corner."
Jonathan's work with Sasha Bruce goes all the way back to 2019, when he partnered with Microsoft and Papa John's to unveil an innovation lounge at the Bruce House, which is located in Northeast Washington D.C. and the only homeless youth shelter for minors. The lounge offers a fun and innovative space to inspire creativity, open-mindedness and an entrepreneurial spirit among homeless and runaway youth.
In 2020, Allen participated in weekly counseling sessions with youth in the community as well as contributing $45,000 to their Rapid Response funding initiative. Jonathan and Hannah also served on the planning committee for the annual Sasha Bruce gala. Jonathan and Hannah also donated meals to more than 85 families within the Sasha Bruce community and sponsored the holiday wish lists for all the kids staying at the Sasha Bruce House.
Today, Jonathan Allen and his wife Hannah announced that they are pledging to donate $3 million dollars to local area charities over the course of Jonathan's playing career with the Washington Football Team. In November, Jonathan and Hannah organized a Thanksgiving event where they, along with Grace Covenant Church, distributed canned goods and gift cards to Sasha Bruce Youthwork families to ensure the families would enjoy Thanksgiving meals. Additionally, they will be sponsoring holiday wish lists for families from the Sasha Bruce House, purchasing and gift-wrapping presents to distribute during a dinner the Allen's will host for the families.
"Growing up in Ashburn, I would say that Jonathan wants to help his community that much more," Hannah said. "Most people just see him as a football player, and they see the fame and they see his success on the field. He's so much more than that."
"The Walter Payton Man of the Year honor holds a special place in my heart. As a former teammate and friend of Walter Payton, I know how big of an honor being the team nominee is. I am proud of Jonathan for continuing his commitment to giving back to our community and focusing in on an area of giving back that directly impacted his life as a child," said Head Coach Ron Rivera. "During my time with the Bears, Walter was a leader, friend and most importantly a servant in the community. Jonathan shares these same characteristics, and it is because of that, that he is the perfect selection for this prestigious honor."
As a nominee, Allen will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field. All 32 nominees will receive up to a $40,000 donation to their charity of choice, and $250,000 will be donated to 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year's charity of choice.
The 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air the Thursday before Super Bowl LVI on ABC. To further celebrate and promote the 32 nominees, Nationwide will launch the seventh annual Charity Challenge, a social media contest giving fans the opportunity to show support for their favorite WPMOY nominee and offering players a chance to secure additional donations from Nationwide for their charities/causes.
The nominee who receives the most hashtag mentions will win an additional $25,000 donation to his charity of choice from Nationwide, the runner-up will receive $10,000 and the third-place winner will receive $5,000. Fans are encouraged to post on Twitter using #WPMOYChallenge and their favorite nominee's last name in the post between Dec. 7 and Jan. 17, 2022.
Jonathan's time growing up in the foster care system was the darkest of his life, and he wants to remind kids growing up in a similar situation that they are not alone. Everybody needs somebody; for Jonathan, that was his father, who fought a long custody battle to be reunited with Jonathan and his brother. That kind of person, who shows kids that their life is worth fighting for, Jonathan aspires to be.
"Jon always said he wanted to do something that is meaningful," Hannah said. "Having gone through the foster care system, Sasha Bruce means that much more to him, because he can relate with all those kids."