Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation

William Shatner, The Rock, help Panther Greg Olsen win charity challenge

Star Trek captain William Shatner and wrestler turned action star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson were among the celebrities who helped Carolina Panther tight end Greg Olsen win $25,000 for his charitable foundation late Sunday night.

Olsen was among 32 NFL players challenged to see who could get the most Twitter mentions in the weeks leading up to the naming of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. (Each of the 32 players is a nominee for the honor.)

Organizers say they won’t make the results official until Jan. 12, but Olsen led the 32 players with nearly 1.1 million mentions of #OlsenWPMOYChallenge by the midnight deadline Sunday.
That’s nearly double his closest competitor, Torrey Smith of the San Francisco 49ers, who had nearly 600,000. Arthur Moates of the Pittsburgh Steelers was a distance third with about 195,000. (Former Panther Steve Smith is also among the 32 competitors and it wasn’t clear how many retweets he got.)

“1,000,000 mentions!!! Thank you EVERYONE!!! Incredible team effort by all!” Olsen tweeted when the late Sunday evening.

1,000,000 mentions!!! Thank you EVERYONE!!! Incredible team effort by all!

William Shatner and The Rock were among the big names that helped boost Olsen in the challenge, with The Rock calling Olsen one of his favorite players. Shatner also tweeted congratulations when it appeared Olsen had won.

Olsen and his wife, Kara, have pledged to match their $25,000 winnings dollar for dollar, while Panthers Coach Ron Rivera tweeted that he would donate $8,888.88 it the mentions reached 1 million.

The challenge, sponsored by Nationwide, is intended to raise awareness of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. Each team nominates one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community.

Olsen is the Carolina Panthers’ nominee for the award for the second year in a row. The two-time Pro Bowler and his wife created the HEARTest Yard Fund in 2013 after their son was born with a congenital heart defect. Since its inception, the program has distributed nearly $1.25 million to families of babies affected by congenital heart issues.

The winner of the Payton Man of the Year Award will be announced in Houston at NFL Honors, a two-hour prime time awards special to air nationally on Feb. 4, the night before Super Bowl.

Last year’s winner of the Man of the Year Award was San Francisco 49er Anquan Boldin.

The winner receives a total of $1 million donated in his name, with $500,000 going to a charity of his choice and $500,000 supporting the expansion of Character Playbook across all NFL markets. The two finalists will each receive a $125,000 donation to the charity of their choice and a $125,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook.

Remaining nominees receive a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice and an additional $50,000 donation in their name to implement Character Playbook. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation, presenting sponsor Nationwide, and United Way Worldwide.