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Chris Long named Rams' nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year award

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For all of his charitable efforts both home and abroad, St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long is the team's nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

The NFL announced the nominees for all 32 teams on Wednesday morning. The award is given every year to "a player for his excellence on and off the field."

Long's impact on the field has been limited by a knee injury he suffered early in the year. But his impact off the field has reached far beyond just St. Louis or even the United States.

Earlier this year, Long started the Waterboys initiative, which saw Long recruit players from around the league to raise money and awareness of the need for clean water for villages in need in East Africa. According to statistics from WorldServe International, every day 1,000 children younger than 5 die because of unsafe water and poor sanitation.

"The way of life that is accepted is that they are drinking out of an utterly unacceptably dirty borehole that animals are defecating in, and it's brown," Long said in August. "The water is brown and there's all sorts of green stuff in there, and you'd just never drink it. Just the image of seeing a water bottle that we were drinking from and then what they drink every day -- we thought that they would be aware of how bad it was, but we asked them if they drink that regularly and they just downed it. That just struck me."

The Waterboys initiative has already completed some wells and has the funds for more in the coming months.

Long's efforts have been just as prominent on the home front. Earlier this year, he and fellow defensive end William Hayes spent a night on the streets to help raise awareness for homelessness in a segment that ran on SportsCenter. Long and Hayes have continued those efforts by spending time and donating money to the St. Patrick Center, which assists homeless individuals with housing, employment and health programs.

Long also has been involved with Holiday Mail for Heroes, which works with the American Red Cross to give holiday cards for veterans and active military members stationed here and overseas. He also continued to support the #StartsWithUs campaign, which aims to raise awareness about cyber bullying.

Other nominees for the award include Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and Kansas City safety Eric Berry. The NFL will donate $5,000 to the charity of each nominee's choice and the winner will receive an additional $50,000 donation in his name. The NFL will announce the winner on Feb. 6, the night before the Super Bowl.