CLEVELAND -- Linebacker Christian Kirksey is far more than just a football player for the Cleveland Browns’ organization, and the club recognized his efforts in the community with one of the NFL’s most prestigious honors.

Following Thursday’s practice, the Browns announced that Kirksey has been selected as the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for the 2018 season.

“I always just want to be a humble guy and try to put other people before myself,” Kirksey said in the release announcing the award. “I always said that if I ever got to the spotlight that I do now, I always wanted to give back.

“I always just wanted to be a responsible guy and let people know that it is not about me -- it is about everybody else. I am honored that I can be a part of the Cleveland Browns organization and be nominated for this award. I am just happy. I am almost kind of at a loss for words. I am just excited.”

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Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) defends Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers (17) after a catch in overtime at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Charles LeClaire

Since joining the Browns through a third-round pick in 2014 NFL Draft out of the University of Iowa, Kirksey has been one of the few stalwarts on defense through the team’s most recent struggles.

Because of a hamstring injury, Kirksey was placed on injured reserve in early November, but that has not stopped him from helping others in the community.

Kirksey has focused his efforts on giving back to the youth of America and social equality initiatives. With the creation of the Kirkoland Foundation, Kirksey has given back to kids in need, and recently, held a bowling event to raise money to take local children to Cedar Point.

Also, Kirksey has spent numerous hours visiting local Cleveland neighborhoods, and along with representatives from the city’s safety forces, recently met with children at a local recreation center to promote unity.

In addition to helping children in Cleveland and his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, Kirksey has taken an active leadership role in the team’s Neighborhood Unity and Equality Summits and gone on ride-alongs with Cleveland Police. Also, Kirksey works with Towards Employment to help transition back to society people who have been released from incarceration.

“The way that I was raised by my parents inspires me to give back,” Kirksey said. “My late father, just seeing how he treated people and the way that he went about his life, I always just wanted to mimic him and go down the same path that he went down.

“Coming here to Cleveland, I was drafted here, and it was an honor to be drafted here. I am always loyal to the people that are loyal to me. I want to make sure that I am a good public figure in the community and just be a role model. A lot of kids need somebody to look up to and need somebody that is positive, and I want to be that influential guy. I am just honored to do that.”

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Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) tackles Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray in a regular-season game at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Ken Blaze

Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Executive Vice President J.W. Johnson will present Kirksey with the award prior to Sunday’s game between the Browns and Carolina Panthers at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

“Since Christian was drafted in 2014, he has been an incredible influence and provided a positive energy for our team and building, as well as throughout the entire Cleveland community,” said Dee Haslam. “It is special to see how he has grown, on and off the field, during his time with the Browns as he has clearly become an exceptional role model for his teammates, our city, and most importantly, the youth he inspires.”

GM John Dorsey added, “High character and putting others before yourself are attributes we look for in the individuals that make up the Cleveland Browns. There is no man that has played in this league that exemplifies those qualities more than Walter Payton, and Christian should be very proud of the work he does off the field that makes him so deserving of this most prestigious honor.”

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