Monday, January 25, 2010

Fletcher finally makes first-ever Pro Bowl

Former John Carroll University All-American and Villa Angela-St. Joseph graduate London Fletcher had a very good weekend in the National Football league, and he didn't play a single down.

On Sunday, it was announced that Fletcher was one of three finalists for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. This award is the only one in the NFL that recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.

On Monday, he learned that he would be making his first career appearance in the Pro Bowl.

The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will be announced live on CBS before Super Bowl XLIV on February 7. Fletcher, along with Cleveland Brown Mike Furrey and Brian Waters of the Kansas City Chiefs, will be in South Florida during Super Bowl week and participate in a press conference on Friday, February 5, with the late Walter Payton’s family.

On Super Bowl Sunday, one of the three finalists will join an esteemed list of winners of the annual award, including 17 Pro Football Hall of Famers.

The three finalists were chosen by a blue-ribbon panel from the 32 team nominees for the award, all of whom receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice. The three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name. The selection panel is comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, Giants great and Executive Director of the NFL Alumni Association George Martin, 2008 winner Kurt Warner, and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.

The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive the Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, Daniel Schwartz. In addition, the player’s favorite charity will receive an additional $20,000 donation in his name.

Fletcher, a 1999 graduate of John Carroll, has made his mark on and off the field throughout his 12-year career. He has proven to be one of the most productive, consistent and durable players in the NFL, having never missed a game, while leading the NFL in tackles over the last decade (2000-09).

A starter on the Rams Super Bowl XXXIV championship team, Fletcher is a 9-time Pro Bowl alternate and 4-time Man of the Year nominee, but it is his work off the field that will leave an indelible mark. In 2003, he started London’s Bridge to "build a bridge to our future" by addressing inequities facing children through education, leadership, teamwork, and recreation by providing college test preparation, campus tours, scholarships, and bike giveaways.

He is the Sports Ambassador for Children’s Inn at the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C., and a fixture at both NFL and team-sponsored community events, including PLAY 60, 4th & Life, and Harvest Feast.

This season, he started a curriculum, mentoring program for 25 Washington, D.C., middle school students. Alongside Fletcher, students visited Capitol Hill, talked with Congressmen, explored museums, distributed food to underserved local residents, and participated in a forum about peer pressure, health, and education.

The Pro Bowl selection adds icing to the cake for Fletcher. The starting middle linebacker for the Washington Redskins was initially selected as a first alternate, but made the roster thanks to a victory by the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, one of the two middle linebackers slated to play for the NFC, will play in the Super Bowl instead -- thus opening a spot for Fletcher.

He is the first JCU football player to participate in the Pro Bowl.

Courtesy of Christopher M. Wenzler, Sports Information Director at John Carroll University

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