FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Chris Lindstrom sat down in front of a video camera, surrounded by studio lighting, ready to provide Falcons fans a holiday greeting pushed out on team's channels.
The star right guard perused the script before him and then gave it his best shot. His reading was not, to put it mildly, what he considered good.
"I came in and totally botched it," Lindstrom said, with a laugh, on the latest Falcons in Focus podcast. "I probably gave the worst reading in history. It was SNL-level bad. They kept saying it was [fine] and I thought, 'you guys normally have a lot higher standard for me, but I guess we're good.'
"Then they brought the letters out, which I was not expecting."
There were five in total, all handwritten and simultaneously presented as an audio recording. They were powerful and moving, heartfelt and emotional to the core, thanking Lindstrom for the selfless acts he has done for them and so many within the greater Atlanta area.
“From the start, you have naturally had a heart driven towards service. I watch you selflessly give time to those around you, so that they always felt special and loved.” – Madison Snyder, Lindstrom’s fiancée
The letters were read one after another, detailing all the good deeds Lindstrom has done for others over the last calendar year. They number too many to list in this space, but his work with the Georgia chapter of Best Buddies, focused on creating opportunities and a network of support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, remains a highlight. He also spent time with women dealing with cancer, a disease that took his mother Dawn last year. Lindstrom was available for most every event Falcons community relations held, and worked with that department to create ways to support other causes dear to him using his money from his own pocket.
“Dear Chris, I wanted to take the time to thank you for encouraging and providing me with hope. You were so kind and thoughtful. You took the time to ask about my cancer journey and you truly cared. In closing, Chris, thank you for making a difference in my life. “…Thank you for being a humble, caring and kind person, one who sees a need and acts. The world is a better place because of this gentle giant.” -- Maria Ramsaier-Kirk, cancer survivor
Tear-jerker sentiments like that continued, one after the other, before reaching a crescendo. That's when younger sister Eda Lindstrom, who thrives despite dealing with IDD, announcing that Lindstrom had been named the Falcons' Walter Payton Man of the Year.
The NFL's Man of the Year, selected from nominees by every team, will be announced at the NFL Honors show on Feb. 9. Fans can vote for Lindstrom by using #WPMOYChallenge, followed by Lindstrom or @C_Lindstrom63, -- you can do easily right here -- on social media for the possibility of awarding extra funds to a charity of Lindstrom's choosing. Online voting ends on Jan. 8.
Lindstrom's Man of the Year nomination was just the beginning of a big December. He was named to his first Pro Bowl later in the month, told by head coach Arthur Smith, offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford and his teammates before midweek practice.
The honor shows the respect Lindstrom has earned across the league, especially during a 2022 season where he earned standing among the elites at his position.
"The respect of the guys in my [offensive line] room is most important," Lindstrom said. "As long as those guys, and the offense as a whole, know that I'm giving my all on every snap and that I'm trying to be the best I be, that's most important. But to get that respect from around the league was truly awesome and really means a lot. You get drafted and every year after you set team and personal goals. Team goals always come first, but hitting one of these personal goals is really meaningful."
So is his impact on Best Buddies. Lindstrom was instrumental in starting the Georgia chapter of this large charitable organization, near and dear to him due to his sister's experience with IDD. He has a "best buddy" in Michael Kozicki, someone with IDD he met promoting the organization, and spends regular, quality time with him in Atlanta.
“It’s great that we met through an organization called Best Buddies, because we really are best buddies. People may not know what a kind person you are because you are so tough on the field. But I know you are a great friend.” – Kozicki
“With your hard work, dedication and kind heart, you have made a positive impact in many people’s lives. It’s a great honor to have you as an ambassador [for Best Buddies], because you’re helping people with the same disabilities and struggles as me. Also, to help women with cancer and continue to fight, just like mom did.” – Eda Lindstrom
Lindstrom asked to be a major part of the Falcons' Dazzle and Dine event devoted those those dealing with breast cancer, and spent time with Ramsaier-Kirk, who was battling the disease at the time but has since been told that she's cancer free. Lindstrom's mother Dawn passed away last year due to ovarian cancer, making moments like his time Ramsaier-Kirk deeply personal.
"One of the most rewarding aspects of this whole thing is building relationships with people," Lindstrom said. "Hearing Mary's story and what she's going through and thinking about my mom and her story and seeing the similarities between them and their fight was really powerful. Hearing from so many others on the dazzle and dine night, and getting to know Michael through Best Buddies, it's all about the relationships."
That's why Lindstrom values most. He's quick to deflect praise for his charitable endeavors to others who have helped him along the way, choosing to keep focus on behind-the-scenes efforts and the causes themselves, no surprise to those work with him within the community.
“In a time when it’s easy for celebrities and athletes and influencers to be focused on themselves, how people view them and how they can boost their own following, you have always used your platform to focus on the most marginalized in society.” – Anthony Kennedy-Shriver, Founder/CEO of Best Buddies International
That's what Lindstrom has often done during his NFL career. It's what he'll continue to do as it moves forward, honoring and bringing awareness to those who need it most, whether he's recognized for his efforts or not.
"You do these activities, you're in the season and to take a moment to pause and reflect was great," Lindstrom said. "The pause and reflect was brought on by the letters. It was really touching. There were incredibly kind words by everybody. It really meant a lot."
The Atlanta Falcons have named Chris Lindstrom as their nominee for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Take a look at some of the work Chris has recently done around the community.