Andrew Whitworth tells Derrick Barnes story during Walter Payton Man of the Year speech
CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - During his Walter Payton Man of the Year award acceptance speech at Thursday’s “NFL Honors” show, former Cincinnati Bengals and current Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth told a story about Detroit Lions linebacker and former Holy Cross High School standout Derrick Barnes.
Whitworth and Barnes met at a Boys & Girls Club in Cincinnati, where Whitworth was a frequent visitor during his time with the Bengals.
“One experience brought it all together for me - this year - and it happened to me on a football field. In our game against the Detroit Lions, I had a young player from the Lions run up to me as soon as the final horn went off. And I saw him sprinting over, and I didn’t know what was going on - like we’d known each other forever.
“I couldn’t place him. It made me so nervous. Had I actually played long enough that like a coach’s son or player’s son is playing against me?
“He stopped that. He said, ‘Hey man, you’re not gonna remember me. I’m Derrick Barnes. You spent time with me when you were a young player in Cincinnati at the Boys & Girls Club. And it meant the world to me. You used to sit with me and talk to me about life. And I was just a little kid. I want you to know how much it meant to me.’ I said, ‘Man.’
“He goes, ‘You know what, the main thing I wanted to say, Whit, I made it. I made it to the NFL, Big Whit.’ Wow! I was floored for how special that was. ... I hope you don’t see that video and think there’s anything special about me. But I hope that you see it and you think this: On that Tuesday off day - when every guy sitting in this room that’s played knows ‘I’d rather be at home’ - I made an investment in him.
“And I didn’t even know it. I think that’s a great lesson for all of us. None of us know when the moment is gonna present itself. The key is to always be available when it does.”
Whitworth became the first Rams player to win the award since its inception in 1970.
Whitworth, the NFL’s oldest active player, is in his fifth season with the Rams. Whitworth became the first left tackle in NFL history to start a game at age 40, and he’ll make history again if he starts in Super Bowl 56 against the Bengals.
The second-round pick of the Bengals in the 2006 NFL Draft played in 168 games over 11 seasons in Cincinnati.
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