Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings safety a finalist for Payton award

Posted by: under Vikings, Bears, NFC, Super Bowl, Vikings defense, Madieu Williams Updated: January 23, 2011 - 4:23 PM
Vikings safety Madieu Williams is among three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award that will be announced before Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6. Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha and Chicago's Israel Idonije are the other finalists for this year's award, which is named for the legendary Chicago Bears running back who died in 1999.
 
The honor is the only league award that recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
 
Asomugha and Idonije will be in North Texas during Super Bowl week and participate in a news conference on Feb. 4, with the late Walter Payton’s family. Williams will be in the Persian Gulf, having made an earlier commitment to visit with U.S. service members during Super Bowl week.
 
The three finalists were chosen by a panel from among  the 32 team nominees for the award, all of whom receive a $1,000 donation from NFL Charities to the charity of their choice. The three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name.
 
The selection panel is comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, Giants great and executive director of the NFL alumni association George Martin, 2009 winner Brian Waters and Sports Illustrated writer Peter King.
  
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive the Gladiator statue. In addition, the player’s favorite charity will receive an additional $20,000 donation in his name.
 
Here's what the NFL press release said about Williams:
 
Williams’ charitable works have achieved local, national and global impact.  Locally, he works with the North Community YMCA, United Way and Harvest Prep/Seed Academy and provides season tickets for the kids in his “Dieu’s Crew” program.  Williams also hosted a free football camp in Maryland, where he was raised, this past summer, and continues to support the Cincinnati area after a stint playing for the Bengals. Globally, Williams made a $2 million donation to create the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health at the University of Maryland, where he attended college. 
 
The center will address public health issues in Prince George’s County and Sierra Leone, where Williams was born.  He has already built a primary school in the African nation and is now building a secondary school there as well.  His foundation sponsored a mission to Sierra Leone that brought American teachers, surgeons and dentists to help educate the teachers at his school, give free dental cleanings to all of the students and provide free surgeries. Williams came to the Vikings as a free agent in 2008 and has been a stalwart in the defensive backfield. He has started 38 of his 39 games and notched a career-best 96 tackles in 2010. Williams is a leader on the Vikings defense that has ranked in the NFL’s top 10 each of his three seasons with the club.
 

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