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Byron Jones’ Impact Transcends the Football Field
The cornerback is the Miami Dolphins nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award
By Travis Wingfield Dec 10, 2020

"What brought me to Miami was the idea of joining a young team and being a leader on that team, and kind of being a catalyst for cultural change." - Byron Jones



When Byron Jones met with members of local South Florida media for the first time, he talked about man-to-man coverage, playing alongside Xavien Howard, his familiarity with virtual teleconference applications and what attracted him to the Dolphins as a free agent.

"I wanted to be a part of the building of something special and more than anything, just being that guy – a guy that people look up to in the locker room to lead them in the right direction, really."

He was talking about football, but his words carried beyond the white lines on the field and his actions are validating his comments. He made a promise to himself that he was going to do more to make a positive impact in his new community and those efforts are being recognized in the form of what's considered the most prestigious honor in the NFL.

The NFL announced the 32 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominees on Thursday. Jones and 31 other players across the league will receive a $40,000 donation in their name to the charity of their choice. Each nominee will don a Walter Payton Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of their accomplishments on and off the field.

"It's an honor," Jones said. "Community service was something that truthfully I haven't done a good enough job at, especially early on in my career. I looked in the mirror and asked myself, 'am I doing enough for my community?' And the answer was no, so I really changed things around in 2020 with the help of the Dolphins. They really led the way for me and gave me the avenue to really help out and be a steward in my community."

Additionally, Jones hosts football camps in his hometown to empower kids to get involved in both football and their communities, teaching teamwork, responsibility and dependability. Jones was transparent in his self-evaluation, a trait that comes from a life in football.

"It comes from football," Jones said. "In football, you really have to check yourself frequently. You have to ask yourself am I lifting enough weights, am I watching enough film, am I drinking enough water, am I getting enough sleep?"

"It starts with simple things then you can expand it," he continued. "Am I focusing enough on football but also am I focusing enough on my community, my family, my relationships? I think it's a really good trait to have in general, no matter what career you're in. Just check yourself. Really ask yourself am you doing enough in the avenues of my life that are most important? Oftentimes the answer is no and it's up to you to really change that course."

Jones put his words into actions quickly upon arrival in South Florida.

The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Program provides youth in the local community an opportunity to meet some of their favorite Miami Dolphins. Jones participated in the organization's virtual event earlier this week to answer questions and impart some of the lessons he's learned both in life and in football.

"A lot of kids were asking about discipline and how you focus during a class you may not like. Just grit, perseverance and determination," Jones said. "No matter what you want to do in life, those three traits will take you far.

"I'm sure their parents have said it many times, and the mentors from a particular group, but I think coming from an athlete it really resonates."

Jones has been dedicated, committed and passionate about serving his new community since he joined the Dolphins in March of 2020. He commits every Tuesday to leading the team's Social Impact Committee in conference calls, community events and casting the vision for the future of the committee. This commitment involves many hours each week to ensure the committee communicates and provokes unique thoughts that turn into actions.

In a recent interview on Drive Time with Travis Wingfield, Jones discussed the Dolphins' Social Impact Committee and the eager mindset this Dolphins team has to take action that creates change.

"Overall, everyone is very eager to do something," Jones said. "Obviously we have a voice, we have a platform; but a lot of us wanted to create action to create change. That was really the impetus of our social impact committee that started with the Dolphins. We've done some incredible work in the civic engagement and economic empowerment and education aspects, and that was really something that the support staff at the Dolphins really spearheaded – along with the players – and they gave us a forum."

Excelling in his efforts to make a change in the community, Jones is able to transition that approach onto the football field and in the locker room with the Miami Dolphins. The team is 8-4 in Jones' first year with a 7-1 mark since his return from a groin injury that kept him on the sideline for the better part of three games.

Byron Jones 1x1 Square

Jones reflected on his first nine months as a member of the Dolphins and revisited his desire to be a catalyst for change.

"We have a culture of young guys who understand how to play good football," he said. "Guys that are playing to learn and grow and evolve as football players and young men. That's the exciting part, to be a part of this up and coming group. We still have a long way to go. It's exciting to see some success early on but the most important football happens in December and we're in the thick of it, so we're trying to keep our head down and continue the culture that we have so far."

All 32 nominees will receive a $40,000 donation 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.

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