His work with the Texans NFL Play 60 campaign and support of the National Kidney Foundation have earned Greensboro's D.J. Reader a nomination for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
Reader, a Grimsley High School graduate, is a defensive lineman in his fourth season with the Houston Texans.
The award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities and excellence on the field. Each of the 32 teams nominated a player today.
"Football is my job, and that's my main focus," Reader told the Houston Chronicle last month. "But when I have free time and the ability to help people, I shouldn't spend it at home. I want to be out doing my part for the community."
Reader will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season.
Each nominee will receive a donation of up to $50,000 in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award on Feb. 1 will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice.
Reader starred at Clemson, helping the Tigers finish 14-1 during the 2015 season and reach the national championship game, and he was a fifth-round draft pick by the Texans.
He missed the first six games of his final college season, though, taking a break from the sport after his father, David, had died of kidney failure on June 30, 2014, at age 51.
“It’s been a big battle, but it’s something that I dealt with that I took in stride as a man and it’s made me a better person,” Reader told the Houston Chronicle when he was drafted.
“It was a lot of the grieving process,” Reader told the Chronicle. “It was due to me just getting help and grieving, something I needed to deal with. I think it definitely has made me a better person. It’s helped me out a lot as an individual and helped me grow as a man.”
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Reader spent an off day during the week of a game against the six-time Super Bowl champion Patriots delivering turkeys, an estimated 1,500 of them, to families in four locations around Houston, according to the Chronicle.
"You just find those pockets of time and those places around you where you can make a difference, and you do it," Reader said.
Reader told the Chronicle's Jenny Dial Creech that he often volunteered with his father in Greensboro.
"We'd do everything," Reader said. "Work concession stands at local sporting events, sell those chocolate bars to raise money for local causes. Work at different events, like fun runs and things."
Reader had 80 tackles and eight sacks during his senior year at Grimsley, also rushing for 600 yards as a fullback and earning three-star ratings from the recruiting sites.
He also starred on the Whirlies’ baseball team, both at the plate and as a pitcher with a fastball that topped out at 92 mph.