"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."