It’s that time of year. The Pro Bowl is done. The Super Bowl is less than a week away. And Saturday night, at the NFL Honors, the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner will be announced.
For nominee and San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould, who was with the Chicago Bears from 2005-2015, this award has an extra special meaning.
“…I believe that as a player, you’re given a platform that if used correctly and if properly committed to, you can change somebody’s life almost every single day…” Gould said. “The other part that I think is unique about the award is that it’s really a recognition of what you do on and off the field, right, so I think a lot of the things that you do on the field are great because they help the team win and helps the morale in the locker room and things like that, but any time that you’re given an award from the organization or your teammates, it’s an honor. For me, knowing what the Payton family stands for, what Walter had done as a professional football player and as a community service leader, it’s pretty unique to be mentioned in the same name as him.”
The importance of a consistent and accurate kicks was prevalent throughout this year’s NFL Playoffs and Gould’s numbers speak for themselves. In his 14 year career, Gould, who will be a free agent, has made 358 of 408 field goals and 454 of 465 extra points.
The sense of philanthropy and community started early for Gould, as it was something ingrained in him by his family and it’s something his is continuing with his children.
“I grew up in a community, it’s a middle to low income area…” Gould said. “Everyone chipped in to do fundraisers or do field work to make sure the fields were properly lined, to the baseball field being raked and soccer fields being cut and mowed by parents, run the concession stands. I grew up in an area that community meant a lot to us, and it gave me an opportunity to play a lot of sports, but also there’s a lot of teachers who would pitch in too to be a part of it, to help in the education side of it.
“So we started at a young age, and my kids are doing it…They do a lot of stuff at Christmas. We donate toys and we’re teaching them that even though you might have a really cool job or your dad has an awesome job that there’s ways that you can get involved and help.”
In 2011, Gould started the Goulden Touch Foundation, which found its way when it “…branched off into finding collective partners and running a huge celebrity golf tournament and raising $900,000 with the help of Ace Hardware and Lurie Children’s Hospital. I put on a golf tournament back home and we give to a bunch of different organizations, and it means a lot to me to be able to go back into those communities…There was someone there helping me, whether it was my parents, whether it was family members, whether it was coaches, and this is kind of my way of going back and going out and teaching kids hard work and making right decisions, and giving people an opportunity that might not have it.”
It seems fortuitous that Gould has spent the last two seasons with the 49ers, an organization that has such a robust community relations department.
“…I get here and I get involved in the organization, and as a player, you try to come in and you try to ingrain yourself in the culture because I think every organization is different,” Gould said. “So here comes the community relations team, and it’s by far the best community relations team I’ve ever been a part of. They are an incredible group that deals with a lot of different buckets of community relations activities. They put on a handful of big events that we’ve been a part of, but I also think there’s something for every player in the locker room, and it’s not that hey, you’ve got to do everything. Now, they make it easy for you to do everything, but I think it’s something that if you’re a player and that’s something that you’re involved in and that you like, there’s a big check mark that checks off that box that a lot of people probably wouldn’t know unless they knew somebody in the locker room.”
49ers’ community relations events see a high participation rate among players, something that not only goes a long way off the field, but also goes a long way on the field.
“This organization has definitely helped exceed those expectations for a group of guys that don’t know each other,” said Gould. “…I think that’s why we end up playing really well at the end of the year…[T]hose things just start to click and guys just start to figure out the schemes and the community relations side of that with the bonding, and the off-the-field stuff definitely can create some more wins, that’s for sure.”
Hearing his name announced Saturday night would be a huge honor, but at the end of the day, it’s the work that matters to Gould.
“…[Y]ou don’t get into this to win an award, so if I’m lucky enough to win it, that’s awesome, Gould said. “It’s something that I’ll always have to be able to explain to my kids what matters in life, but if not, I’m still going to do it. It’s not going to end, so it’s just nice to be nominated. It’s nice to have the honor. I’m very humbled by it. It’s my 14th year in the league and it’s the first time I’ve been nominated. Again, a lot of stuff that we do, you don’t tell people that you do it. You don’t advertise it. It’s just something that you do because you want to do it, and you know that it’s right and it’ll change somebody’s life.”
And that’s what it’s all about. Go Niners!
*Photos provided by 49ers.com