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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He's The Man

The extremely prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, won by Derrick Brooks two years ago, could go to Buccaneer finalist John Lynch


For years, S John Lynch has been the very picture of consistency and production for the Buccaneers on and off the field

Tampa Bay Buccaneers S John Lynch, who earlier this month earned his fifth Pro Bowl berth, could finish the season with an even more prestigious honor. Lynch is one of 32 finalists for the 2002 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

Man of the Year is a singular honor each season in the NFL, the only league award that combines recognition of a player's off-the-field community service and his playing excellence. This year's finalists—one player from each NFL team--have demonstrated an outstanding balance in their lives between civic and professional responsibilities.

Only one player in Buccaneer history has received this honor, as LB Derrick Brooks was the league choice in 2000. That was one year after the award was renamed for the legendary Chicago Bears Pro Football Hall of Fame running back. The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award has been given annually since 1970.

Lynch was pleased simply to be the Buccaneers' choice.

"It is a tremendous honor and it represents a lot of people who have worked with me, including my wife, Linda, who is a part of everything that we do in the community," said Lynch. "Regardless of what we do for the community, we receive much more from the kids that we work closely with in the community. To be recognized for that is an honor that ranks up there with any accolade on the field that I have received."

Lynch's credentials are very strong in both categories.

Off the field, he and his wife have a wide and lasting impact on young student-athletes in the Bay area community through the John Lynch Foundation. The foundation recognizes and assists potential leaders through three distinct channels: the John Lynch Star of the Month, the John Lynch Star of the Year, and the Lynch Family Legacy Scholarship awards.

Through the Lynch Family Legacy Scholarship, the Lynches provide financial assistance for high school student-athletes to attend a college of their choice. The John Lynch Star of the Month program rewards high school and middle school student-athletes for their athletic and academic achievements, outstanding sportsmanship and community involvement. The Lynches also select Star of the Year winners from the monthly winners and recognize them at the Youth Sports Achievement Awards Banquet held at the end of every school year.

Through his Tackles for Tampa Bay program, Lynch raises money for his foundations' activities based on his own on-the-field performance, donating funds for every tackle, sack, interception he makes, plus every Buccaneer victory, and organizing matching funds from local corporations. As always, that has proved to be a boon for aspiring young students, as Lynch remains one of the key performers in Tampa Bay's top-ranked defense.

Despite missing most of two games with a neck injury, Lynch still racked up 96 tackles, three interceptions and five passes defensed this season. The most veteran member of the NFL's most effective secondary, Lynch has 21 career interceptions and nearly 900 tackles. He will be playing in his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl this season, and his fifth in the last six years.

The winner of the 2002 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award will be selected by an elite panel of judges, including NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, Connie Payton (wife of the late Walter Payton), and former players Frank Gifford, Jack Kemp, John Mackey, and last year's award winner, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.

The winner will receive $25,000 to donate to his selected charity. Each finalist will receive a $1,000 contribution towards a charity of his choice.

The 2002 Walter Payton Man of the Year winner will be announced during Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's annual news conference January 24 prior to Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego, California.

Interestingly, three other former Buccaneers are also on the list with their new teams – Seattle QB Trent Dilfer, St. Louis LB Don Davis and Washington LB Eddie Mason. Here are the finalists from each team:

Arizona CardinalsJake PlummerQB
Atlanta FalconsKeith BrookingLB
Baltimore RavensJonathan OgdenT
Buffalo BillsRuben BrownG
Carolina PanthersMike MinterS
Chicago BearsPhillip DanielsDE
Cincinnati BengalsWillie AndersonT
Cleveland BrownsJamel WhiteRB
Dallas CowboysEmmitt SmithRB
Denver BroncosEd McCaffreyWR
Detroit LionsRobert PorcherDE
Green Bay PackersDonald DriverWR
Houston TexansKris BrownK
Indianapolis ColtsTarik GlennT
Jacksonville JaguarsKyle BradyTE
Kansas City ChiefsTony RichardsonFB
Miami DolphinsShawn WoodenS
Minnesota VikingsMatt BirkC
New England PatriotsTroy BrownWR
New Orleans SaintsNorman HandDT
New York GiantsDhani JonesLB
New York JetsMo LewisLB
Oakland RaidersRoland WilliamsTE
Philadelphia EaglesTroy VincentCB
Pittsburgh SteelersDewayne WashingtonCB
San Diego ChargersMarcellus WileyDE
San Francisco 49ersJeff GarciaQB
Seattle SeahawksTrent DilferQB
St. Louis RamsDon DavisLB
**Tampa Bay Buccaneers****John Lynch****S**
Tennessee TitansKevin CarterDE
Washington RedskinsEddie MasonLB
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