ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –In addition to leading the Broncos from his middle linebacker position on the field, Wesley Woodyard has been a leader in the team's community efforts off the field.
He was recognized for those efforts with the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year honor – the third such award he's won in the past four years.
In addition to the work he does with his own 16Ways foundation, Woodyard is a constant presence at events organized by the Broncos' community relations department.
He has helped mentor younger players who are looking to get involved in the local community or who hope to start foundations of their own.
"A lot of teammates seek me out about how to start their own foundations," Woodyard said. "I tell them, it's hard work, but if you're going to be dedicated to it, it'll be something you grow to love. I think the importance of it is that me as a leader, Zane (Beadles), Champ (Bailey), Peyton (Manning) – we express to the younger guys that you can't be an NFL player and just play football. You have to uplift people every day and take advantage of the platform that you're on."
One player in particular who has taken Woodyard's advice to heart is linebacker Steven Johnson, who was one of five Broncos named Community Ambassadors on Wednesday.
"I thought it was cool," Johnson said. "I never really knew I could get an award for it, but the fact that I just get recognized I guess for helping out in the community, that's pretty cool. All-in-all, it's not really about me. It's about the whole team and the whole organization helping out the kids. That's really the main reason I do it, for the kids. You can make a big impact to a kid and may not even know it. I just thank Cindy and her department for giving us the opportunity to be able to go out and do that stuff. That's something I'll continue to do. It's cool. It's fun."
"I remember Steve coming up to me and talking to me his rookie year, asking, 'What can I do to get out in the community,'" Woodyard recalled. "That is special. That is special to me."
In his weekly player blog for DenverBroncos.com, Woodyard singled out Johnson for his efforts in the community.
"One guy that I'm looking forward to see continuing to step up like he has been is Steve Johnson," Woodyard wrote. "He has been doing great job."
In addition to making an impact in the community, Johnson said the experience helps build chemistry between the players that spend their off days helping others.
"We've been all over the place," Johnson said. "We were helping out with (Habitat for Humanity) building homes, going to elementary schools and stuff like that. Me and Ben Garland went to Fort Carson to meet with all the military – that was fun. We're giving back, but at the same time, we're building team camaraderie, it was fun for us to be able to do that stuff. Usually it's on our day off and we don't have anything else to do anyway, so why not go and give back to the people who cheer us on on Sundays."