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Three finalists named for Payton Award, including a former Dragon

The NFL will name its Walter Payton Man of the Year during the Super Bowl on Sunday, but today it announced the three finalists for the prestigious honor. They are: Brian Waters of the Chiefs, Mike Furrey of the Browns and London Fletcher of the Redskins.

Each team nominates a player and then the list if whittled down to three finalists before the winner is named on Sunday. Last year Kurt Warner won it. Johnny Unitas was the first winner of the award in 1970. And yes, Walter Payton won it before it was named for him 10 years ago.

Those on Long Island might remember Furrey when he played for the Dragons, the Arena Football League team that was based on Long Island. Furrey was here for the 2002 and 2003 seasons. In fact, if he wins the award he would be second player for that franchise to win it. Warner, who played for the team when it was the Iowa Barnstormers before it came to Long Island, won last year.

"Fifteen years ago I sat in a classroom and there was a teacher that told me I would never become successful in football, that I would never play at Ohio State," Furrey said at Friday's press event for the finalists. "It’s been a long journey since. There have been a lot of doors shut. I ended up at Northern Iowa, but it’s been a determination that has been built inside of me through the paths and journeys that I’ve gone through. I have learned from them. I wouldn’t trade, nor would any of these guys, the situations they’ve been in.

“It’s taught us courage, strength and determination to knock doors down when doors are closed. That is how we have survived in this league. That is how we became successful in this league. When I say success, I don’t say success being the money and the fame, it’s the success that allows us the opportunity to go out and speak to kids, influence kids and change kids lives. That is what it has done for all of us. That’s why we wouldn’t change that. It’s been a great life lesson and it’s been a blessing that I’ve been able to go through all those things and now be able to give back and help people become what I’ve become. Hopefully the goal is that one day they go back and help somebody in need, the same way we had the opportunity when we were growing up.”

New York Sports