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Denzel Ward named Cleveland Browns' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee

The Cleveland Browns have named cornerback Denzel Ward as their 2021 Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a previous story.

For the second straight year, the Cleveland Browns have named a cornerstone of their defense as their nominee for the NFL's annual Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. On Tuesday, the Browns announced that cornerback Denzel Ward is their 2021 Walter Payton Man of the Year, a distinction that honors  "one member from each of the NFL’s 32 clubs for their exceptional performance on the field and their dedication to the community."

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“What an honor it is to be named the Walter Payton Man of the Year for the Cleveland Browns,” Ward said in a statement. “To be mentioned in the same sentence as Walter Payton is a blessing. It means a lot to be nominated and represent my team, and also to be among so many guys in this league who I respect and who have been doing this a lot longer than me. As a Cleveland native, it is a priority for me to give back to my community, and I hope I can make an impact in a lot of ways – not just in Northeast Ohio but everywhere. I have been fortunate enough with a great support system that helps keep me going on and off the field, and I am excited to see what is in store next.”

As a result of his selection, Ward will be honored by Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Whitney and JW Johnson before kickoff of Cleveland's matchup with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

A native of nearby Nordonia, Ward is now in his fourth season with the Browns, who selected him out of Ohio State with the No. 4 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. The 2018 Pro Bowl selection is currently in the midst of what has arguably been his best season in Cleveland, totaling eight pass defenses and three interceptions in 11 games.

In the community, the 24-year-old Ward has made his mark through the “Make Them Know Your Name Foundation," which honors his late father Paul G. Ward Jr., who unexpectedly passed away due to cardiac arrest in 2016. The foundation aims to prevent heart-related fatalities with early detection and life-saving intervention, with Ward having donated money, equipment and time to visit schools in the region.

All 32 NFL teams' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominees will be highlighted and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LVI. The 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, which will take place on the Thursday prior to Super Bowl LVI in Inglewood, California.

Defensive end Myles Garrett was named the Browns' Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2020.

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