Among the most prestigious awards in the NFL, LB Jonathan Vilma has been named the 2010 New Orleans Saints "Man of the Year" for his dedication to community service, his charitable efforts and his performance on the football field. The honor is voted on annually by members of the media, Saints front office staff and local non-profit and business executives.
Vilma is more than one of the New Orleans Saints' top tacklers and defensive playmakers, he is also among the club's most popular players because of his conscientious approach to his time away from the football field.
"On behalf of my family and the entire Saints organization, we congratulate Jonathan on receiving this prestigious honor," Saints Owner/Executive Vice President Rita Benson LeBlanc said. "We are very proud of Jonathan's victorious achievements on the field, but we are just as proud of the character and integrity with which he continues to conduct himself off the field. Jonathan deserves this tremendous recognition for his exemplary commitment to being all the best that a man can be as an NFL player."
Recently Vilma established The Jonathan Vilma Foundation to support the building of a charter school in Haiti to educate students from kindergarten through high school. In 2010, a devastating 7.0 earthquake struck the region killing more than 230,000 people of which 40,000 were students and 1,000 were teachers. More than 50 schools were destroyed. Jonathan's parents immigrated from Haiti and family members remain in the country. He also contributed to the relief efforts by participating in the NFL/Red Cross PSA campaign soliciting fan donations that was aired nationally and creating a T-shirt with the profits going to the Haitian relief efforts.
"Jonathan's passion and dedication to making a positive impact in not only the New Orleans community, but also in his hometown of Miami and his parents' birthplace of Haiti, speaks to the compassion and generosity that he exhibits," said Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis. "He is certainly deserving of the Man of the Year honor and we congratulate him."
Vilma, who majored in finance at the University of Miami, hosts a financial conference for NFL players called "Jonathan Vilma's Financial 51" to help players manage their money. He also serves as a board member of the National Football Foundation's "Play It Smart" program, an educational program designed to use football as a vehicle to foster the academic, personal and career development of at-risk student athletes.
Vilma has made a significant impact in the middle of the Saints defense since joining the club in 2008, leading the club in tackles each season. A leader on and off the field, he's has been recognized by teammates as the club's winner of the Ed Block Courage Award in 2008 and was voted a defensive team captain in 2009 and 2010.
Last season he led the Saints in stops for the second consecutive season with 130 tackles (100 solo), two sacks, three interceptions and eight passes defensed. He was the first Saints linebacker to be selected to the Pro Bowl since 2000. In 2010, Vilma has again filled all categories of the defensive stat sheet, leading New Orleans with 125 tackles (66 solo), two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery one interception, four passes defensed and a career-high four sacks, which ranks third on the club.
The NFL Man of the Year award has been in existence since 1970 and honors NFL players who demonstrate balance in their lives between civic and professional responsibilities. The finalist from each team receives a $1,000 contribution toward a charity of his choice, and the overall winner will receive $25,000 to donate to his selected charity.