Rams' Long nominated for Payton Award for 'Waterboys' project
St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long's efforts to provide clean water to East Africa has earned him the team's nomination for the NFL's Walter Payton Award.
Long was recognized for his charitable work through his personal foundation, specifically the formation of the "Waterboys" project in which he recruited one player from every NFL team to raise funds and awareness for clean-water projects in East Africa.
The goal of Long's initiative is to build 32 water wells - one for each NFL team. Long came up with the idea during a visit to East Africa after noticing the lack of sanitary conditions and clean water.
“As athletes, we have a tremendous opportunity to use our platforms to make an immediate, surefire difference,” Long told the Rams' official team website. “With football as its foundation, the Waterboys Initiative will help change the lives of millions of people in desperate need.”
Long also has been involved in a number of charitable endeavors in St. Louis, donating time and resources to a non-profit center to help the homeless with housing, employment and health programs. He's also served as honorary chair for Holiday Mail for Heroes, a partnership between the Rams and the American Red Cross designed to provide holiday cards for veterans and active military members stationed both at home and abroad.
“I love helping other people, but also I think that’s just what’s expected of me as a professional athlete,” Long said. “This game’s given me a lot. It’s given me a lot to give back and it’s given me a platform. If I don’t use it, I feel like I’m shorting myself and I feel like I’m shorting everybody else.”
The Walter Payton Award, named for the late running back who starred for the Chicago Bears, recognizes a player for his excellence on and off the field. The winner will be announced on Feb. 6 during Super Bowl weekend.