INDIANAPOLIS – Pat McAfee's Pro Bowl type season on the gridiron in 2014 has extended deep into the community, too.
On Tuesday, McAfee was acknowledged for his excellence on and off the field by being named the recipient of the team's "Man of the Year" honor.
McAfee is the Colts representative for the national Walter Payton "Man of the Year" award, which is the highest distinction an NFL player can receive for his efforts both on and off the field.
"We talk about serving all the time, putting the team first, and serving. Pat embodies everything of what we call a Colt. He's a pillar guy," Chuck Pagano said in a team release.
"Not only is he a great football player, but what he does off the field is tremendous. It's a great honor. It's one of the highest honors I think you can get in the National Football League. And to have the opportunity to be the Walter Payton Man of the Year at the end of the day is a testament to Pat's hard work. We're very, very proud of Pat and more proud of the stuff he gives back to this community and what he does outside of football. A great honor."
Earlier this offseason, McAfee re-signed with the Colts striving to become the game's top punter.
He's certainly living up to that lofty goal. McAfee has tied his franchise record with 27 punts pinned inside the 20-yard line this year and ranks second in the NFL with a net punting average of 43.7 yards. He's a perfect 3-for-3 on onside kicks this year (the rest of the NFL is 5-for-46) and he has also boomed an NFL-best 67 kickoff touchbacks.
While fans can see what McAfee does kicking footballs each week, his charitable work is something he also does at an elite level, even if it doesn't come with quite the fanfare of his Sunday activities.
Good friend, and Colts center, A.Q. Shipley says the fun-loving personality of McAfee can be seen through his generosity to those less fortunate.
"(McAfee) loves to see people smile," Shipley says. "He loves to put joy in other people's lives and see that smile, see their faces light up with joy. He just loves giving things back. He loves seeing excitement out of other people more so than himself. He's very selfless.
"He does a great job of taking what he's earned and taken what he's been given the fortune of having and trying to spread the wealth."
Whether it's assisting a hand to military families or inner city football programs, McAfee's realizes the platform he has been blessed with and uses that through numerous avenues.
"It is an incredible honor to be named the Colts' Walter Payton Man of the Year," McAfee says. "In the darkest of times, the most fulfilling thing in the world is finding the light. Although sometimes it's very difficult, if you're willing to look hard enough, you can find positives in every situation.
"There are so many moments that I've been lucky to be a part of. From helping vets with my friends at Wish For Our Heroes, to visiting with inspiring kids and young adults who are much tougher than I battling illnesses. From helping local high schools to random acts of kindness, they all hold a special place in my heart but the one that really opened my eyes was when the tornadoes hit some of our Indiana communities last year. It was an unfortunate series of events that caused plenty of heartache and damage for some citizens of our state, but if you looked hard enough you could see it as an opportunity. An opportunity for other Hoosiers to prove that no matter what the situation, no matter what the triumph, we will always have each other's back. Together we raised $40,000 in 48 hours for the victims. We couldn't fix everything that was lost, but it was at that moment, that I realized how incredibly lucky I am to be a member of this community. Indiana is filled with caring people and Hoosier Hospitality is real. I'm just trying to do my part. I am humbled, happy and excited to serve this state for years to come. There's never a wrong time, to do the right thing. Let's make the world a better place."
Below are a few of the endeavors that McAfee has had his hand in:
-Formed "The Pat McAfee Foundation" to provide scholarship assistance to the sons and daughters of US Military Personnel. He holds the men and women of our armed forces in high regard and formed this foundation to assist their children in continuing their education beyond high school. In 2014, the foundation awarded $35,000 in scholarships, totaling more than $60,000 to recipients since 2013.
-Donated $45,000 to support Northwest High School in central Indiana by rebuilding its football program. Upon learning about his high school's faulty weight room, McAfee donated $40,000 to build a new facility which supports all of the school's athletic teams.
-Initiated the #ThankAHero campaign earlier this year. One Purple Heart recipient received a surprise full home makeover. Last year at the November 10 "Salute to Service" game in Indianapolis, McAfee reunited a military husband with his wife and two sons and donated a new SUV to the family.
-In the spirit of holiday giving, last week, Pat supported WISH FOR OUR HEROES with a $25,000 donation to offer bill paying assistance for 14 soldiers, 63 youth and 10 spouses. Pat also matches a $500 weekly donation for local military heroes each week on The Pat McAfee Show.
-At each Colts home game, McAfee donates 20 tickets and meal vouchers to Wish For Our Heroes as a part of the team's Community Ticket Block program. He also serves as the team's representative on United Way's TEAM NFL initiative. Through this campaign, Pat attended "Hometown Huddle", to unveil a new fitness room to a local community center with the United Way of Central Indiana. McAfee is one of 32 players around the NFL who have pledged to help United Way promote a healthy active lifestyle nationwide.
-In addition to his personal efforts, McAfee has supported several of the Colts community programs and initiatives, and those of his teammates, over his six seasons in the NFL. This season, he was selected by the Colts as the 2014 Salute to Service nominee, an award created to acknowledge the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL Community to honor and support U.S. service members and veterans.
-For more information on the Pat McAfee Foundation, visit www.thepatmcafeefoundation.org