The Buccaneers announced on Friday that defensive tackle Clinton McDonald would be the team's nominee for the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
"This is one of the most prestigious awards in the NFL and it's said that way for a reason," McDonald said. "It helps exemplify a player who tries to go above and beyond in the community and be a beacon of light to those in need and communities in need. To be named as a nominee amongst the other 31 teams and their nominees is a great honor."
McDonald was almost solemn in his tone, the respect for the award and honor he felt to have been nominated palpable when he spoke. The only thing bigger about the defensive tackle than his physical stature may be the heart he has and compassion he feels towards his community. It is evident to all those around him, including his head coach.
"Clinton – you couldn't have a finer person on your team," Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter said on Friday. "[He is an] excellent leader. When Clinton speaks up in team meetings, everyone listens, including me. The room goes silent. Clinton just has a great head on his shoulders. He is very generous in the community. He thinks [about] what is needed and then he acts on it. He does the same thing on our football team. You'd love to have a whole team of guys just like him, so, well deserved."
McDonald's impact in the Tampa Bay community cannot be understated. Following Hurricane Irma, McDonald organized and sponsored food trucks in the areas that were hit hardest by the storm. Thanks to the defensive lineman, over 15,000 meals were provided for local residents, many of whom were without power and basic resources for days.
"This is my home," McDonald said. "This is where I live. When we went out for the hurricane and came back and [saw] the need that we didn't have a lot of resources as far as lights and power, it kind of put me in check and convicted me in the sense that I still had lights, I still had power, I had food and had resources. A lot of our neighbors in our community didn't have those things. For me to be in the position that I am to see what's going on in the community, it kind of makes you feel like, 'Okay, I can do more. I can do a little bit better.'"
In addition to his individual influence, McDonald has expanded his reach by inspiring many of his teammates to get involved within the local community as well. It's a by-product of the example the big man sets himself.
"It's great because we all want to be great on the field, but sometimes our mission in life is to be great men outside of the lines of football," McDonald said when asked what he thinks of other players on the team following his example. "For guys to kind of take my lead, or take a lead, to say, 'I want to get involved in my community or get involved in Tampa Bay areas' – it makes it easier for us all to get out in the community and it makes it easier for the community to know that us as players – we are not too far removed from the positions that we started out our lives to say we can come back and give a hand and give a monetary value or give our time to donate anything that we need to donate that we feel needs a cause."
McDonald has taken many local causes to heart on top of one-off initiatives like his contribution to hurricane relief efforts, despite not growing up in the area. One of the causes McDonald has consistently supported and emphasized within the Tampa Bay community has been aiding members of the military and their families in a variety of capacities.
"This community is very near and dear to me because first of all, it's a military community," McDonald said. "I grew up in a military community as well."
McDonald has been both locally and nationally recognized for his military efforts. In addition to his Man of the Year nomination, he was also the Buccaneers' nominee for the NFL Salute to Service Award. As a proud USAA member, he was selected as a 2017 NFL Spokesperson in the "USAA Member Voice" commercial campaign. He and his family appeared in a nationally syndicated commercial for USAA and took part in the campaign given that McDonald believes USAA shares the same qualities he stands for: loyalty, honor and respect. Recently, McDonald has worked closely with the Wounded Warrior Project, even dedicating his cleats to the organization as part of the NFL's Week 13 My Cause, My Cleats initiative.
You won't have to talk to McDonald for long to hear him utter the phrase, 'to whom much is given, much is required'. It seems to be a driving force behind everything he does both on and off the field. It leads him to seek out opportunities to get involved, something he says is almost obligatory of those who possess a platform such as NFL players do.
"You've got to first recognize what is going on and where the problems are, whether it be economic or whether it be just getting involved at a local Boys and Girls Club or the NFL YET Center – something to that point," McDonald said. "The need is for us as athletes to use our platform in a positive and directive manner regardless of what we have on our agenda to do – to kind of be the light in the community. The need is for us to go out in the community and kind of search what is going on. We use social media to kind of find out what the need is. We watch the news [and] read the newspapers. All the media sites are helping us say, 'Where is there need? Where can we help out? Where can we make an impact?"
McDonald's efforts have earned him a $50,000 donation to his MACCLID Foundation as part of his nomination. He will also receive an additional $50,000 to expand the NFL's Character Playbook initiative, educating middle-school-aged students on how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships, in the Tampa Bay community, courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Suncoast. McDonald will also wear a helmet decal in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field for the rest of the season along with the other 31 nominees from each team.
Three finalists will be announced next month, with the winner announced in Minneapolis at *NFL Honors, *a two-hour primetime awards special that will air the night before Super Bowl LII.
Fans are encouraged to participate in the Walter Payton Man of the Year Charity Challenge between Dec. 11 and Jan. 7. Fans can vote for the Buccaneers defensive tackle using #WPMOYChallenge along with 'Clinton McDonald' on social media. The nominee who receives the most votes will receive an additional $25,000 donation to his charity of choice, the runner-up will receive $10,000 and third-place winner will receive $5,000.