Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth is the 2021 Walter Payton Man of the Year. The award is a prestigious one and is given annually in recognition of a player’s volunteer and charity contributions in the community.

During his acceptance speech, Whitworth used an exchange with former Purdue star and Detroit Lions rookie Derrick Barnes to highlight the importance of giving back. It was an exchange that Whitworth said brought tears to his eyes.

“In our game against the Detroit Lions, I had a young player run up to me as soon as the final horn went off,” said Whitworth. “I saw him sprinting over, and I didn’t know what was going on like we’ve known each other forever.

“He said ‘Hey man, you’re not going to remember me. I’m Derrick Barnes. You spent time with me when you were a young player in Cincinnati at the boys and girls club, and it meant the world to me…the main thing I want to say Whit: I made it. I made it to the NFL Big Whit.”

Barnes would join Purdue as a member of the 2017 recruiting class out of Louisville, Kentucky. After a dynamic stint with the Boilermakers, Barnes became a 4th-round pick of the Lions and posted 67 tackles as a rookie in 2021.