EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Nate Solder might have the NFL's biggest heart, and not just because he is 6-9 and 316 pounds.
The Giants' left tackle is a chronic giver. He never met a person in need he didn't want to help or a good cause he didn't want to contribute to. In his two seasons with the Giants, Solder and his wife, Lexi, have been immersed in numerous good causes, using their time, compassion, vison, commitment and money to help people from right here in New Jersey all the way to Africa and Central America. And they've done it under challenging circumstances.
Solder is just as reliable in uniform. He has missed only 55 snaps in two seasons – all last month against the Jets, when he suffered a concussion in the first half - while playing arguably the most demanding position on the line. He has twice been selected a captain in a team vote.
"I think anything that I'm asked to do, I want to do it with the best of my ability," Solder said. "That's something I always try to do, and I do have a huge responsibility. There is an accountability to each other. We have accountability as teammates. We have accountability to Christ as we serve others. I think it's everything that we do."
His work in and out of uniform earned Solder the Giants' nomination as the 2019 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Two years ago, he was the New England Patriots' nominee, further proof of his longstanding commitment to helping those less fortunate.
"It's certainly humbling, because every year, there are so many fantastic candidates from every team," Solder said. "Over the years, there have been so many tremendous people that have won it. I just want to be a part of the momentum for every guy. I don't want to win it for myself. I want everyone to be successful with their organizations, what they're doing and just bring awareness to what guys are doing in the NFL."
Presented by Nationwide, the Man of the Year Award is named for former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who died in 1999. The award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field.
Each of the 32 teams has a Man of the Year who are eligible to win the league award. Last year, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long received the award. In 2016, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was named a co-winner – with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald - of the Man of the Year Award. Manning is the only Giants player to receive the award in its 49-year history.
The Giants' nominee last year was safety Michael Thomas.
"He 100 percent deserves it," Thomas said of Solder. "When I was nominated last year, I thought about all of my teammates who do amazing things and who are also deserving, and Nate Solder was one of those main ones. Everything that he does is genuine. That's just who he is as a person. I couldn't think of anyone more deserving."
The three 2019 finalists will be revealed in January. The 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Feb. 1, the eve of Super Bowl LIV on FOX. NFL Honors will be at the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami.
All 32 nominees will receive a donation of up to $50,000 in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
For the second year in a row, all 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LIV.
"I would definitely say Nate being Man of the Year twice on two different teams would be a highlight of his career, and he has some pretty good highlights," Lexi said. "I think that's bigger than anything that he can do on the football field, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm really proud of him for both things, because he knows very well that this is not about him. He knows that God made him 6-9 and 330 pounds and capable of playing football very well, but he uses that in so many different ways. I would definitely say that's what makes me most proud of him, is that he recognizes that, he knows that and he does it, he acts on it."
No one would question if the Solders chose not to extend themselves to others while they endure the kind of challenge no family wants. Their four-year-old son, Hudson, was diagnosed with a rare Wilms tumor in both kidneys at 3 months old. During the bye week, Hudson underwent surgery to have a tumor removed and he is currently undergoing his third round of chemotherapy.
Nate Solder is a testicular cancer survivor.
The Solders are unwavering in their commitment to help others. Nate has served as a constant community ambassador for the Giants since joining the team as a free agent in March 2018. Soon after his arrival, he and several teammates traveled with Americares to Puerto Rico on a three-day trip to deliver aid and medical supplies to areas affected by Hurricane Maria. He and his fellow offensive linemen hosted a group of children from local group homes for a holiday pizza party at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, where they were surprised with gifts from the players. The linemen have twice participated in the Giants' annual firehouse visit to commemorate September 11.
This year, the Solders directly invested in the lives of children overseas experiencing poverty through Compassion International, the faith-based nonprofit centered on holistic child development. Nate and Lexi made a financial contribution to start 11 new child development centers through local churches in Thailand, Uganda and Burkina Faso that will directly serve over 1,650 children in some of the poorest communities of the World. Through these church centers, children and their families will receive medical care, nutritious meals, educational services, as well as spiritual and social support. In addition to funding those programs, the Solders also directly sponsor five children through Compassion International. Last offseason, Nate and Lexi traveled to Uganda and Guatemala on separate offseason trips to visit Compassion's program sites and spend time with the communities that they serve.
Nate and Lexi also support several vital organizations in Boston. They are regular visitors and fundraisers for The Jimmy Fund Clinic at Boston Children's Hospital, which has been integral to Hudson's care and treatment. They have also been constant supporters and committee members of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation and started the Hudson Solder "Tough Like My Dad Fund" to help offset living expenses that insurance doesn't cover for other families who are battling cancer.
Solder serves as a board member of Fresh Truck, which brings affordable fruits, vegetables and healthy food to low-income Boston families.
Nate is also the 2019 ambassador for the "Heart of a Giant" program, through which the Giants, USA Football and Hospital for Special Surgery recognize the most inspiring high school football player in the New York metropolitan area. He also visited the Make-a-Wish of New Jersey Castle to help children announce the Giants' 2019 draft picks live on NFL Network, and served as the host for a two-day community health expo at MetLife Stadium that provided free family activities, health screenings and information for attendees.
Solder was the 17th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, by England. With the Patriots he played in four Super Bowls, winning two. When he signed an eight-figure contract with the Giants on March 15, 2018, Solder became the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman. In his first public comments that day, Solder demonstrated to everyone at his new home his commitment to helping others.
"I think it's a shame on me if the money only helps the Solder family," Solder said. "My belief is that this money has been entrusted to me not for the personal comfort and security, but for an actual impact that we can have on our community and the people around us. "But by God's grace if we joyfully look forward to the momentary impact for the New York Giants, a lifetime of impact on our communities and an eternal impact for the kingdom of God, me and my family could not be more thankful and excited, so it's just a great time. Like you said, no, I couldn't have ever expected this, but we believe that it's God's wishes, not ours, to make the impact in our communities — for the kingdom, for people that are less fortunate for us. It's nothing about us having a bigger house, a nicer car, anything like that. So like I said, shame on me if it's just about us."
It never has been, which is why Nate Solder is a deserving Man of the Year nominee for the second time in three years.
ABOUT THE WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD
- The award was established in 1970. It was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.
- Representing the best of the NFL's commitment to philanthropy and community impact, 32 players are selected as their team's Man of the Year and become eligible to win the national award.
- The winner will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime special airing nationally on Feb. 1, 2019 the night before Super Bowl LIV on FOX.
- All 32 nominees will receive up to a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice.
- $250,000 will be donated to 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year's charity of choice.
- Fans are encouraged to post on Twitter using #WPMOYChallenge and their favorite nominee's last name in the post between December 12 and January 12.
- The nominee who receives the most hashtag mentions will win an additional $25,000 donation to his charity of choice from Nationwide, the runner-up will receive $10,000 and the third-place winner will receive $5,000.
- The five current players who have won the award – Drew Brees, Thomas Davis, Larry Fitzgerald, Eli Manning and J.J. Watt – continue to wear a Man of the Year patch on their jerseys to recognize the outstanding contributions they have made to the game and to their communities.
- The 32 nominees for the 2019 award will wear a Man of the Year helmet decal starting Week 15 through the end of the season, in recognition of their accomplishments on and off the field.