Jan. 26, 2001
NOTRE DAME, Ind.-- Former Notre Dame football standout and current Chicago Bears star Jim Flanigan has been named co-winner of the Walter Payton National Football League Man of the Year Award. Flanigan shares the award with Derrick Brooks, linebacker of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue made the announcement this morning during his annual Super Bowl news conference.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, named after the legendary Chicago Bears running back, is the only league award that recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
Flanigan becomes the third Notre Dame graduate to win the award, following Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann in 1982 and Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson in 1987.
Flanigan and Brooks join an esteemed list of past winners that includes 12 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Recent winners include Cris Carter of the Minnesota Vikings (1999), Dan Marino, the retired Miami Dolphin (1998), and Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys (1997).
Flanigan, an anchor of the Bears defensive line the past seven years, makes a difference with the James Flanigan Foundation. The foundation raises awareness of child literacy issues through efforts such as the Great American Book Drive, which delivers more than 700,000 books directly to nearly 400,000 underprivileged children.
"I want children to understand that reading has helped me imagine things beyond what I would ever have known growing up in Wisconsin, going to school at Notre Dame, and playing professional football for the Chicago Bears," Flanigan says.
"My life is rich, but it would not be nearly as rich without the words I have known and the things I have learned through reading. Reading and imagination go hand in hand, and imagination inspires hopes, dreams, and determination."
Other Foundation programs include Reach out and Read Chicago, the James Flanigan Foundation Literacy Advocate Award, Mission 99, the James and Susan Flanigan Endowed Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame, and the Jim Flanigan Charity Golf Outing. He was named among The Sporting News' "Good Guys in Sports" in 1999 and "Most Caring Athlete" by USA Weekend. He was also named a finalist for the 1997 True Value Man of the Year. In 1998 he was appointed head of Illinois' Reading Education Partnership Council by Joseph Spagnolo, state superintendent of education.
The James and Susan Flanigan Endowed Scholarship provides financial aid to Notre Dame students with outstanding academic credentials and demonstrated financial need. Flanigan, a 1990 graduate of Southern Door High School in Brussels, Wis., was his class valedictorian and a Parade and USA Today All-American in football. At Notre Dame, he started on the defensive line as a junior and senior, earning honorable mention All-America honors in 1993. He twice made the Dean's List, was the recipient of an academic leadership award, and was graduated with a bachelor's degree in management in 1994.
On the field, the 6-2, 290-pound Flanigan entered the 2000 season having started 74 consecutive games for the Bears. He has finished first or second on the Bears in sacks in each of the last five years and as of this season, has 41 career sacks. Flanigan also has three touchdown receptions in his career.
The accomplishments of the 31 finalists -- one from each NFL team -- are reviewed by a blue-ribbon panel, which includes Commissioner Tagliabue, Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King, football greats Frank Gifford, Jack Kemp, John Mackey, 1999 winner and current Minnesota Vikings star Cris Carter and Connie Payton, wife of Walter Payton.
ESPN and ESPN2 will air "The Walter Payton Man of the Year" show on Super Bowl weekend. The feature will include a montage of team winners working in their communities, as well as historical footage of Walter Payton's career on and off the field.
Each winner will receive the distinctive Gladiator statue, an original art creation by noted sculptor Daniel Schwartz. In addition the favorite charities of both Brooks and Flanigan will receive a $25,000 donation in their name.
THE WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR