By Sam McPherson
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith isn’t having his best statistical season on the field, which is to be expected considering the team’s 1-11 record and current losing streak. However, Smith hasn’t let that stop him from making a difference off the field: The 49ers announced on Wednesday the sixth-year wideout is the team’s nominee for the 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.READ MORE: California Drought: Healdsburg Bans Sprinklers; Sets Personal Water Use To 74 Gallons A Day
Named after the late Hall of Fame running back of the Chicago Bears, the Walter Payton Man of the Year award is given annually to the player who best exemplifies a commitment to philanthropy and community involvement, according to the 49ers website. Each NFL team nominates a player for the award, and three finalists will be announced on Jan. 22, 2017. Ultimately, the winner will be announced during Super Bowl week in Houston on Feb. 4.
Smith Making His Mark Off The Field
The San Francisco WR has just 20 catches for 267 yards this season, and he missed the first game of his NFL career in Week 11. As the 49ers struggle to get consistent quarterback play, Smith just hasn’t had the same role in the offense as he did a year ago when he led the NFL with a 20.1 yards-per-catch average. After four strong seasons with the Baltimore Ravens that included a Super Bowl victory over San Francisco in 2012, Smith is experiencing a lull in his on-the-field career with the 49ers.
But that hasn’t stopped his work off the field. As the team website notes, Smith and his wife Chanel oversee the Torrey Smith Family Fund, a non-profit organization established to help kids reach their full potential. Centered in Baltimore, the organization manages several academic and social programs to assist young African-American males in the community.
Positive Community Influence Felt Locally As WellREAD MORE: Update: One Killed, Two Injured When Truck Crashes Into Diners at San Jose Sports Bar
Smith is signed through the 2019 season, so it’s been significant to see him get involved in San Francisco regional causes as well. According to the 49ers website, Smith also participates in the team’s Community Mondays events throughout the Bay Area community, including events to thank United States military personnel for their service to our country.
Additionally, prior to the 2016 regular season, Smith and his organization reached out to assist the city of Flint, Michigan during its contaminated-water supply crisis. Due to efforts like these throughout his NFL career, this is the third time Smith has been nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. The Ravens nominated him two straight years as well, in 2013 and 2014.
Anquan Boldin And A New 49ers Tradition
Last year, San Francisco WR Anquan Boldin was the ultimate winner of this prestigious honor, becoming the first 49ers player to ever win the honor, dating back to its original inception in 1970. Payton himself won the award in 1977, and when he passed away in 1999, the NFL renamed the award after him.
If Smith wins the honor this year, it will be just the second time in history that a team’s nominee won the award two straight seasons, as the Kansas City Chiefs achieved this distinction in 1972 and 1973. Linebacker Willie Lanier and quarterback Len Dawson were honored in those back-to-back seasons, respectively.MORE NEWS: San Francisco Police Arrest Serial Burglary Suspect
Boldin and Smith were teammates together in Baltimore during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Smith’s first two years in the league. The two also played together in San Francisco last season. Boldin’s influence has been obvious on Smith’s career, and despite the fact Boldin now plays for the Detroit Lions, his imprint upon the 49ers and Smith simply adds to the legacy of the San Francisco franchise.