FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — In the thick of the regular season, sometimes a little motivation is needed. That's why Bradley Pinion listened to Swahili worship music as he drove up to the Falcons practice facility on Wednesday morning and reflected on his trip to Tanzania where he visited to do charitable work over the offseason.
Later that morning he'd hear that same language that helped recenter the punter, but this time from children Pinion has sponsored saying "Asante Sana" which means, "thank you very much" in a video delivering Pinion the news that he's been named the Falcons 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year.
"This game is really bigger than an individual, bigger than yourself," Pinion said. "It gives you the platform to make so many amazing things happen, and I'm just trying to do that."
All season long, Pinion has participated in his initiative Punts for Purpose which donates $1,000 to Compassion International every time one of his punts lands inside the 20-yard line. This program focuses aid on preventing infant mortality in the parts of the Global South, helping mothers and babies survive that crucial first year of life. Pinion has gathered other punters around the league to join him in his cause. Through Week 13, Pinion has raised $20,000 just with his punts alone.
The video announcement congratulating Pinion may have ended on an emotional note, but it didn't start out that way. In fact, it was much more technical.
Get a glimpse of the Falcons punter's trip to Tanzania in his work with Compassion International. Photos courtesy of Bradley Pinion.
The Falcons video team surprised Pinion by bringing the punter into the team's primary studio to break down the mechanics of field goals. With how good the Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo has been, Pinion didn't give the false pretense second thought and began explaining the specifics behind a Falcons game-winning kick.
As Pinion continued, Koo and fellow specialist long snapper Liam McCullough, special teams coach Marquice Williams and more started to file in the studio behind him. They watched as he processed the shock when the screen read, "Just kidding. This is not about field goals."
First, a representative from Compassion International appeared on screen and congratulated Pinion. Then the kids he worked with over the offseason thanked him. A roar of applause from his fellow specialists serenaded Pinion as the video ended and the celebration began.
"That was amazing," Pinion said choking up. "The sponsored kids got me."
Pinion first got involved with the organization's work by sponsoring the children and developmental centers they sponsored, then after the trip to Tanzania, he and his wife created Punts for Purpose for the 2023 season.
This is the second time Pinion has been named a nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. In 2017, Pinion was selected as the San Francisco 49ers nominee. Pinion will represent the Falcons in the NFL's annual ceremony leading up to the Super Bowl. The NFL's overall WPMOTY will be named just before the league's title game.
"You never shoot out for that goal of getting (Walter Payton) Man of the Year, you make the goal of just helping as many people as possible," Pinion said. "But it's an unreal honor."