Dec 16, 2013 00:06 Thomas nominated for Payton award Thomas nominated for Payton award Advocate staff photo by John McCusker Saints running back Pierre Thomas breaks into the open field against the Dallas Cowboys last month. Advocate staff report Dec. 16, 2013 Comments The New Orleans Saints have nominated running back Pierre Thomas for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, the club announced Tuesday. The Walter Payton award is given annually by the NFL, which is the only award that recognizes a player’s volunteer and charity work as well as his excellence on the field. Since making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2007, Thomas has been an asset for the Saints as a versatile player on the field and with his work in the community. One of the most reliable Saints with his off-the-field work, he participates in multiple team community events each year. Included are school visits, hospital visits, holiday food and toy drives, NFL-sanctioned events and local community events. His charitable organization, the iCan Foundation, was formed to help prevent and educate youth and adults about the ongoing and rising issues of childhood obesity in the U.S. through its programs and activities. The program was designed to promote living a healthy lifestyle through physical activity as well as a proper diet. Thomas, who in seven seasons has become the franchise’s fourth-leading rusher as well as serving as a solid receiver out of the backfield, is currently working to develop educational programs and initiatives that would create more public awareness about the disease. Since beating the odds and making the roster, Thomas has rushed for 3,474 yards and a 4.6 yards average with 25 touchdowns in 90 games. He’s also caught 269 passes for 2,158 yards and 11 TDs. A panel of judges, including Walter Payton’s widow, Connie, will select three finalists for the award from 32 nominees — one from each of the 32 league teams — with the winner to be announced on Feb. 1, the night before Super Bowl XLVIII.