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Zaire Franklin humbled, motivated by nomination as Colts' 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year

Franklin said being named the Colts' 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year has already inspired him to find more ways to give back to kids in Philadelphia and Indianapolis through his foundation, Shelice's Angels. 

A young, seventh-grade girl wasn't able to attend the first half of Shelice's Angels first community event in Philadelphia. There was a shooting two doors down from her house, and police weren't letting anyone leave the block.

When she made it to the event, one of the first things she was tasked with doing was putting together a PowerPoint on what she wanted to do as an adult. She had a passion for animals, so she explained she wanted to become a veterinarian.

In the four years since first meeting her, Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin has had an impact guiding and inspiring her to follow her passion. She's now in 11th grade at a high school in Philadelphia specifically designed for training future veterinarians. And the role Franklin had in journeys like hers is not only why he deservedly was named this week as the Colts' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee – it's also motivation for Franklin to continue to make a profound impact on youth in the communities he calls home.

"Just the fact I was able to help and inspire her on her way, it's inspirational to me," Franklin said. "But it's also motivating for me and the organization to continue to not only keep those girls as success stories, but who else can we impact, who else can we meet."

Through his work with Shelice's Angels, Franklin has hosted business academies, financial literacy seminars, holiday meal services and trips with young women to visit leaders in business, technology and sports. Inspired by his late mother, Shelice, and his grandmother, Franklin has committed himself to giving back not only financially, but through dedicating his time and energy to the causes about which he cares deeply.

"It's easy to write a check. That's easy," Colts general manager Chris Ballard said. "But it takes real caring commitment to your community and others to show up the way he does.

"... He's not only putting his name on it, he's going to work in the community and making a difference. And it's one of the really special things that I get to see that makes me really proud to have him as a part of our organization."

Zaire Franklin was named the Indianapolis Colts' 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee.

Franklin on Wednesday expressed deep gratitude for being recognized as the Colts' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. It's an honor he hoped to earn since his professional football career began, and the weight of it is something he doesn't take lightly.

"Sometimes at this stage, when we achieve things, sometimes we're just so busy with trying to move forward and look forward in time, it's hard for us to really feel the gravity of things that have actually earned," Franklin said. "Definitely something I'm truly thankful for, it was something that was always an ultimate goal of mine when I came into the league."

And Franklin understands the impact he can make through Shelice's Angels in the future can only continue to grow now that he'll forever be known as the Colts' 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year, which is considered the highest recognition NFL player can earn.

"Having this honor, to me it's just the validation and encouragement to keep going," Franklin said. "Now that we achieved it, I'm thinking about all the possibilities of different things I can do to further help kids, whether it's north Philadelphia, whether it's east Indianapolis — wherever it make be, just continue to try to help the kids and inspire them to go further."

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