Walter payton NFL man of the year award

Established in 1970, the annual Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. Each of the 32 NFL teams nominate one player for the award based on their commitment and significant impact on their community.

Ricardo Allen

Atlanta Falcons Nominee

Safety Ricardo Allen has been selected as the Atlanta Falcons nominee for the 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. His dedication to his community, positive character and excellence on the field have demonstrated his qualifications for the award.


Ricardo has been committed to serving his community since he was drafted in 2014. Aside from consistently volunteering at the team's community activations, he hosts a free football camp in his hometown of Daytona Beach, Florida. In 2016, he traveled to Canada where he was a part of an NFL Canada PLAY 60 event and participated in a visit to the local children’s hospital. Ricardo also traveled to Washington D.C. where he visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Walter Reed Medical Center to spend time with injured troops. This past year, he traveled to West Point Military Academy with other leaders of the Atlanta Falcons team to say thank you to those serving and participate in leadership military-based training.


Ricardo has taken on a full leadership role in the team’s social justice efforts over the last couple of years. In this year alone, he has taken lead on the player Social Justice Committee meetings through researching organizations and educating others on their importance. During the Spring, he was heavily involved in the weekly events hosted by the Atlanta Falcons Social Justice Committee from April through mid-June and was a part of almost all of them. He has spoken in front of the team at team meetings regarding the importance of the committee’s social justice efforts and has personally recruited additional players to join in on the outreach.

Aside from Ricardo’s time, effort and research, he has donated more than $45,000 towards the Atlanta Falcons Social Justice Committee’s fund and selected causes. He was selected to speak on a panel surrounding the work of social justice activist, Bryan Stevenson. He also visited the Equal Justice Initiative Museum in Montgomery, Alabama as well as the lynching memorial.

social justice committee

Two years ago, Ricardo vocalized his passion for his teammates to take action in the realm of social justice. He thought it was important to emphasize doing something about the world’s problems rather than just taking a stance for everyone to see. With extreme vulnerability, Ricardo stepped up in front of the team to form the first ever Atlanta Falcons player-led Social Justice Committee. Since the 2017 season, he has been heavily involved in leading all of the Atlanta Falcons social justice initiatives, as well as his own.

positive character

In his six seasons with the Falcons, Ricardo has become one of the most influential leaders within the organization. His leadership has been evident since his first season with the team when he was drafted in the fifth round, cut from the team that training camp, then brought back on to practice squad. Since his elevation to the 53-man roster in 2015, Ricardo’s career has soared. His statistics tell his story on the field, but there is another piece of Ricardo Allen that only his teammates and coaches are lucky enough to see and feel.

In a team meeting last season, while he was on injured reserve, Head Coach Dan Quinn asked the entire room, “Who in this room has been personally affected, touched or made a better man because of Ricardo Allen?” and the entire room stood up.

bigger than football

Despite being placed on injured reserve at the start of the 2018 season, Ricardo returned to the team in 2019 as a season-long team captain. While injured, he dedicated himself to each and every one of his teammates, specifically those filling in for him.

excellence on the field

In four seasons, Ricardo has played in 62 games with 60 starts while totaling 303 tackles (219 solo), one sack, eight interceptions and 19 passes defensed. This season, he's played in 13 games with 13 starts, recorded 74 tackles (27 solo) with one interception and six passes defensed.

In 2017, he posted 54 tackles (38 solo) with one interception, one tackle for loss and one pass defense while starting 15 games at safety. He notched five tackles and had one forced fumble in two postseason games. Ricardo started all 16 games at safety, totaling 90 tackles (61 solo) with two interceptions and three passes defensed in 2016. He notched 14 tackles (six solo) with two interceptions during the postseason in Atlanta’s run to Super Bowl LI.

Ricardo made the switch from cornerback to safety during the 2015 offseason. He played in 15 games with 14 starts in his first year on the active roster.

In 2015, Ricardo played in 15 games with 14 starts. He totaled 68 tackles (59 solo) with three interceptions, one sack, one fumble recovery and five passes defensed. He made his first NFL start vs. Philadelphia (9/14) where he recorded seven tackles (five solo) and grabbed his first career interception, picking off QB Sam Bradford with 1:17 remaining in the game to secure a 26-24 Falcons win. Ricardo spent the 2014 season on practice squad.

a worthy candidate

During his time with the Falcons, Ricardo Allen has embodied what it means to be the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. His passion for community service, genuine concern for the well-being of others and commitment to success on the field have made a lasting impact on everyone who has encountered him.

Ricardo and his wife, Grace, with their two children at the Falcons 2019 Training Camp.
Created By
Reaganne Goode