Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips arrived at the WhirlyBall in Bloomington on Monday night expecting this to be like most of his off days. The 27-year-old Phillips is one of the most active Vikings players in multiple communities.
His foundation, Harrison's Playmakers, is located in Minneapolis, Buffalo (the Bills drafted him in 2018) and his hometown of Omaha. It aims to help kids with social, physical and economic challenges.
On Monday night, families from Harrison's Playmakers had a surprise. Phillips halted his stride inside a room full of applause and balloon arrangements announcing his Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination by the Vikings.
"I just hope we can leave an even bigger footprint than we have so far," Phillips told the crowd. "Being nominated for this award is going to help us continue to do those things."
Phillips is a third-time Walter Payton nominee in his sixth NFL season, having also earned nominations twice for the Buffalo Bills in 2020 and 2021. The league winner will be announced Feb. 8 during the NFL Honors ceremony. The award honors a player's commitment to philanthropy and community impact, as well as his excellence on the field.
Phillips has quickly made an impact in Minnesota since signing with the Vikings in March 2022, establishing a chapter of his foundation and hosting both events and groups at Vikings games. He gave away 65 tickets to the Vikings' season opener against the Buccaneers. He said he plans to host another group of kids through Best Buddies — a national nonprofit — in a suite at U.S. Bank Stadium for the Dec. 24 game against the Lions.
A third nomination means more financial support. Each team nominee gets $40,000 to the charity of his choice and a chance at the $250,000 prize for being the NFL's winner. Phillips said more nominations also means a better chance at the top honor.
"I remember meeting with the Walter Payton family," Phillips said, "and they say that some of the criteria when they choose the NFL [winner], normally some of what they look at is the nominations."
Phillips and his older sister, Delanie, grew up in a home where their mother, Tammie, retired from teaching to run a day care for children with special needs. That was Phillips' introduction in his young life to the commitment of giving back.
"What was so cool for me is having an individual who was bullied their whole life, who was made fun of, who wasn't picked at recess," Phillips said, "to have him go to school the day after they just showed the nomination of Harrison's Playmakers and showed photos of him at camps or events, and all his buddies at school got to see them on national television in front of millions of people."
Linebacker Anthony Barr, who re-signed with the Vikings last month, fondly recalled his 2021 nomination and the ceremony he shared with his mother, Lori, who is instrumental in the family's efforts to help single mothers through their Raise The Barr foundation.
A Walter Payton nomination typically means a player has deep ties to the community in which they play. Barr said that's so for his foundation, which has offices in Minneapolis and Los Angeles.
"A lot of our employees and current board members are [Minnesota] residents," Barr said. "Our work here is where we'll remain regardless of where I go or how old I am or what country or state I live in. The state and city mean so much to me and have provided me with so much. It'll always kind of be a home base for us."