As a youngster growing up in Chicago, Renaldo Wynn kept Walter Payton as one of his sporting heroes and as a person he always looked up to. Years later, that's an idea that has come full circle.
The Redskins have nominated Wynn for the honor of NFL Man of the Year. Renamed in 1999, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award has been given annually since 1970. It's the only NFL award that recognizes a player for excellence in community as well as for performance on the field.
Last year's league-wide winner was Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts. Past Redskins winners were Darrell Green (1996) and Joe Theismann (1982). Current Redskin Troy Vincent was honored in 2002 as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
"It's our duty to help people with needs and those less fortunate," says Wynn, the 6-3, 292-pound defensive end who is in his 10th NFL season out of Notre Dame.
Selected by Jacksonville in the first round (21st overall) of the 1997 NFL draft, Wynn spend five seasons with the Jaguars before coming to the Redskins in 2002. In both NFL stops, Wynn has made community service a top priority.
Wynn regularly participates in initiatives put forth by the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, including reading to young children through the Redskins Read program; hosting the 4th and Life Senior Forum; and speaking before students, parents and school officials at the Foundation's Fields for Tomorrow renovation dedication at Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C.
In conjunction with the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, Wynn and his wife LaTanya host and help fund an annual holiday shopping spree at a local Target store for families in need.
Further, the Renaldo and LaTanya Wynn Family of Faith Foundation's ministry provides counseling and services to youth and families in need. Services include funding church programs and school related activities.
Renaldo Wynn has served as honorary chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's "Wynner's Circle" program and was a recipient of the Prudential Community Award.
A native of the south side of Chicago, Wynn is working on starting a youth football camp and renovating the football field at his high school alma mater, DeLaSalle. At Notre Dame, he's helped fund locker room improvements.
This Sunday, Wynn will participate in his 150th NFL game. Last Sunday, he started against Philadelphia and came up with three tackles in the Redskins' 21-19 setback to the Eagles on Week 14 at FedExField.
A consummate team player, Wynn realizes full well his responsibilities as one of the team's defensive leaders.
"I've never been a rah-rah type of guy," he states. "I've always been the kind of guy who leads by example. If I have to say something, I will. There's a level of trust within this team. The young guys look to players like me to show them the way."
Continued Wynn: "I think leadership and work ethic are important. A true professional comes in, studies the film of the opponent, knows what it takes and works hard. You can never substitute hard work, and it pays off. It starts in practice."
In terms of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, all 32 NFL clubs submit their nominations to a "blue-ribbon panel" that decides the overall winner.
The NFL donates $1,000 to the designated charity of each nominee, in the case of Wynn his foundation. The overall winner will receive an additional $25,000 and a trophy during Super Bowl weekend festivities.