Linebacker Zaire Franklin nominated by Colts for NFL’s most prestigious award

Zaire Franklin has been elite on the field for the Indianapolis Colts but he was recently nominated for an award that speaks to his character off the field.
Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars
Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

After 13 weeks, Zaire Franklin has 130 tackles on the season— one shy of the NFL lead. He’s a fierce competitor, a notorious trash talker, a leader for the Indianapolis Colts, and the center of a defense that has been playing really well as of late. However, none of those things have anything to do with the award that Franklin was recently nominated for.

On Tuesday, the Indianapolis Colts, along with all other NFL teams, announced their 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominees. Per the league, the WPMOY award is “considered the league’s most prestigious honor,” and it “recognizes NFL players who have exhibited excellence on the field, and whose passion to impact lives extends beyond the game.” For Indy, Zaire Franklin was the team’s nominee for this year.

Zaire Franklin nominated for 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year

Franklin has a foundation named Shelice’s Angels, which was named after his late mother Shelice. Founded in 2019, the purpose of the foundation “is to help young women see the many opportunities available to them outside of their current environments.” Franklin has done just that in Indianapolis and his hometown of Philadelphia by hosting “workshops, seminars and trips designed to arm young women with the tools, confidence and role models they need to succeed as professionals.”

All of this work has been done while Franklin’s on-field profile has grown tremendously. When he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft, expectations were low. In his first four seasons, he was a special teams ace and depth linebacker for the Colts. Over the last two years, he has established himself as one of the best linebackers in all of football, has an entertaining podcast, and is developing into a star player. His nomination for the 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year is proof that he’s just as much of a star with his off-the-field work.