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Greg Olsen Named Walter Payton Man of The Year Nominee

Doing ‘The U’ proud, TE Greg Olsen continues to be a positive factor off the field as much as he is on it.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year-Fan Forum John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of Hurricane Football Alumni that represent the program well on the field. There are only a select few that surpass their on-field persona, one of those players in Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen. On Thursday evening, Olsen was recognized for his contributions in the community by being named the Walter Payton Man of Year nominee for the Carolina Panthers. It’s the second consecutive season that Olsen has be nominated for the Panthers.

All 32 NFL teams have a nominee for the prestigious award that is given to a player that has a significant positive impact on their community.

Here is just a small fraction of some of the foundations and work in the community that Olsen has been a part of according to NFL.com.

In 2009, after watching his mother tackle and survive breast cancer, Greg Olsen founded Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation. The Foundation's Receiving Hope program focuses on cancer research and education programming. The program has distributed over $524,000 to six hospitals and foundations nationwide, with funding generated by events executed entirely by Greg. The program's most notable and largest fundraiser, Kicks for a Cure, has raised over $850,000 in its eight year history.

In early 2013, Greg and his wife Kara founded the HEARTest Yard Fund after a routine examination of their unborn son, T.J., revealed the infant had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a congenital defect marked by an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta. The HEARTest Yard Fund is a family service program administered in conjunction with Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte. The cutting-edge program provides families of babies affected by congenital heart disease with services including in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, all at no cost to the families or hospital. The program provides about $25,000 - $30,000 worth of nursing care (approx. 460 hours) per family during the first six months of the baby's life. Since its inception, the fund has distributed nearly $1.7 million in support. In November 2017, the HEARTest Yard's cutting-edge programming expanded when Greg and Kara announced the initiative's new cardiac neurodevelopmental program - the first of its kind in the region.

In February 2013, Greg traveled to Raleigh, N.C. to lobby the House of Representatives for legislation that would require mandatory heart disease screening for newborns. The bill went in to effect in July 2014. In 2016, the family donated $150,000 to purchase new pediatric bypass pumps for the cardiac ICU. Greg was also a driving force in creating the hospital's signature fundraising gala in 2015. In just three years, the gala has raised nearly $4 million. He is a spokesperson for the NFL's Crucial Catch program, an active participant in the team's Make-A-Wish granting program, and has lent his celebrity star power to assist Beds for Kids, a non-profit organization that provides beds and other basic furniture to children and families in the Charlotte community. Greg and his mother Susan have also worked with the Levine Cancer Institute's Speak Pink program to raise over $100,000 for breast cancer research and screening programs. In addition to their work with the hospital and local community, Greg and his wife, Kara, host a variety of fundraisers throughout the year to benefit Receptions for Research. Since 2009, Receptions for Research has been granted over $2.8 million in support, with 98% of that funding going directly to the organization's mission.

On the field, Greg is one of the NFL's best tight ends. A four-time team captain and three-time Pro Bowler, he is the first tight end in NFL history with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (2014-16). Greg ranks in the top 10 all-time in receptions (625) and receiving yards (7,393) and is approaching the top 10 in receiving touchdowns among NFL tight ends.

Olsen played at the University of Miami from 2004–2006, accumulating 1,215 receiving yards, 87 receptions, and six touchdowns during his collegiate career. After forgoing his senior year to enter the 2007 NFL Draft, Olsen was selected by the Chicago Bears with the 31st selection. Over the course of his 10-year career Olsen has bee named to three Pro Bowls, earned a trip to the Super Bowl and been the first TE in league history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards for three consecutive seasons.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year-Fan Forum John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

One of the new features to being a past Payton award winner is a silhouette of the Walter Payton Man of the Year trophy being placed on game day jerseys. If you caught Thursday Night Football you may have noticed Saints QB Drew Brees with the patch on his shoulder. You can catch TE Jason Witten, Eli Manning, Larry Fitzgerald, Thomas Davis, and Brees wearing the patch for the remainder of the season as well. The 32 nominees for the Man of the Year award will be wearing a helmet decal until the end of the season in recognition of their achievement.

The winner of the Walter Payton Man of Year Award will be announced February 3rd, 2018 at the NFL Honors program airing before the Super Bowl that will recognize other outstanding performances from the 2017 NFL season.

Congratulations and Good Luck Greg!