Before each game the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play, just as the team finishes its pregame warmups, linebacker Adam Hayward honors his late mother, Pauline Hayward, with a private moment at midfield. Hayward says a prayer and has a short conversation with Pauline, who succumbed to breast cancer in 2004.
Adam has certainly done his mom proud in 2010.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced that they have chosen Hayward as their 2010 Man of the Year. As such, the community-minded fourth-year veteran is also one of 32 finalists for the NFL Walter Payton Many of the Year award, one of the most prestigious honors the league hands out each season.
A good portion of Hayward's extensive work in the community stems from his mother's battle with breast cancer. This year, in recognition of his tireless work in supporting fundraising and research for combating the deadly disease, he was named the 2010 Ambassador for the Florida Suncoast Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
"We're certainly proud that Adam Hayward was named the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Man of the Year," said General Manager Mark Dominik, who helped with the selection process. "He exemplifies this honor, and since Adam joined this team, he's grown both on and off the football field. What he did this year, in terms of being an ambassador for Susan G. Komen, personifies what the league is all about. He is surely worthy of being a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award."
The Man of the Year award recognizes a player for what he has done on and off the field that season, and thus Hayward was also selected for what he has helped the Buccaneers accomplish in 2010. The team's designated special teams player on the NFL's Pro Bowl ballot, Hayward leads the team with 18 kick-coverage stops and has helped Tampa Bay excel in all phases of the kick-and-return game this season. Recently, he has also taken on a larger role in the defense following a pair of injuries suffered by linebacker Quincy Black, the second one season-ending. On defense, Hayward has contributed 16 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one pass defensed and one fumble recovery.
Of course, Hayward rightly sees the award as a validation of his efforts to help others, which have been extensive.
"It's an honor to be recognized for what you do off the field," he said. "It's an honor to be recognized as a positive role model because we are role models to little kids and even grown adults. This means you are out there doing the right things in the community and people are paying attention.
"It means a lot to me, because I'm doing a lot off the field and it's showing. I try to get out there and really show people that football players are human and we care a lot about our fans and the community."
As part of his efforts to battle breast cancer, Hayward served as the Honorary Chair for the second annual Pink Tie Gala in May 2010, filming a variety of advertisements and public service announcements for Susan G. Komen. He also served in the same capacity for the charity's largest fundraiser, the Florida Suncoast Race for the Cure, which raised more than $1 million in October 2010 to support research. As the honorary chair, he not only shared his story with the more than 10,000 race-day participants, but completed the 5K race himself on October 2.
In October, Hayward also filmed a personal testament about the loss of his mother and the impact that breast cancer has had on his life. The video ran on Buccaneers.com, FOX Sports' national broadcast and Raymond James Stadium's Bucvision video boards during the team's October 17 game versus the New Orleans Saints, garnering national attention for his determination to find a cure for breast cancer. Later that month, Hayward and teammate CB Ronde Barber presented a $5,000 donation on behalf of the Buccaneers to Faces of Courage, a nonprofit organization that provides life-enriching experiences to families touched by cancer, and on November 18, he spoke as the Honorary Guest at the Florida Hospital Zephyrhills Foundation Gala to benefit the new Comprehensive Breast Center at Florida Hospital Zephyrhills. In early 2010, Hayward also volunteered as a celebrity escort to young women fighting cancer in the 2010 Fashion Funds the Cure fashion show to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
While Hayward has focused his community outreach on breast cancer awareness, he has remained an active participant in various other philanthropic efforts. He has visited servicemen and women recovering from injury at a local Veterans Hospital in Tampa and has traveled to Bahrain, the Persian Gulf, Spain and Italy to greet U.S. Naval troops stationed overseas. Hayward has also participated in the Buccaneers' annual "Day of Giving" events, surprising 30 needy families with gifts, tickets and a shopping spree in December 2008, 2009 and 2010. Hayward has hosted bowling outings for underprivileged youth, visited patients at children's hospitals and has sung Christmas carols to residents at a retirement Home in St. Petersburg.
The National Football League has awarded the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award since 1970 to recognize a player's off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence. Each NFL team selects a local Man of the Year finalist to be eligible to receive the national award. The Walter Payton Man of the Year winner will be selected by a blue ribbon panel and recognized at a press conference during Super Bowl week in Dallas. The national winner will also receive a $25,000 donation to the 501(c)3 organization of his choice.
As the Buccaneers' Man of the Year, Hayward follows in the footsteps of such former Buccaneer greats as Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Shelton Quarles, Ronde Barber and, most recently last year, Clifton Smith. In 2000, Brooks was named the Co-NFL Man of the Year, sharing the award with the Chicago Bears' Jim Flanigan.
Like those players selected Man of the Year before him, Hayward has represented the Buccaneers extremely well with his efforts to help the team win and to improve the lives of others in the community. He's also made himself into a man his mother would be proud of.
"It keeps you motivated and it keeps you going, knowing that you are doing the right thing," he said. "I wish my mom could see it, but she's looking down and watching right now."