'I made it to the NFL, Big Whit': Former Bengal Andrew Whitworth recounts special moment with Tri-State native Derrick Barnes

Whitworth wins Walter Payton Man of the Year
Super Bowl NFL Honors Andrew Whitworth
Posted at 11:27 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 11:32:58-05

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Former Cincinnati Bengal Andrew Whitworth is the 2021 Walter Payton Man of the Year, an award the NFL considers its "most prestigious" to honor both performance on the field, but also impact off the field.

Though he is now a member of the Los Angeles Rams, in his acceptance speech Whitworth recalled a moment this season when a fellow player spoke about how much his work in Cincinnati meant to him. The 40-year-old offensive tackle said Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes, a Covington native, spoke about the time Whitworth spent at the local Boys & Girls Club.

"He said, 'Hey man, you're not going to remember spent time with me when you were a young player in Cincinnati at the Boys & Girls Club, and it meant the world to me," Whitworth recounted. "He goes, 'You know what, the main thing I wanted to say, Whit, I made it. I made it to the NFL, Big Whit.'"

Barnes was in the crowd during Whitworth's acceptance speech.

"On that Tuesday off day, when every guy that's sitting in this room knows I'd rather be at home, I made an investment in him — and I didn't even know it," Whitworth said. "None of us know when the moment's going to present itself. The key is to always be available when it does."

Here is how the NFL describes the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award:

Considered the league's most prestigious honor, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide recognizes NFL players who have exhibited excellence on the field, and whose passion to impact lives extends beyond the game.

Whitworth, the oldest offensive tackle to ever play in an NFL game at 40, will face off against the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl. He said his family will always love Cincinnati and support the team — just not this Sunday.

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