- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. | Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner was presented with the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award during pregame festivities that included the honoring of US Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and the crew from Flight 1549.

Warner was selected over Minnesota’s Matt Birk and Philadelphia’s Brian Dawkins, the other finalists for the award that recognizes players for charitable and community involvement off the field.

The Cardinals quarterback formed a partnership with Habitat for Humanity after visiting regions affected by flooding last year and has raised more than $650,000 to help build homes in the Midwest.

Warner made a $100,000 personal contribution, and another $100,000 was donated by his foundation.

Since creating the First Things First Foundation in 2001, the quarterback has made more than $1.5 million in contributions to help sponsor trips for Make-A-Wish families and numerous other charitable causes.

Washington Redskins defensive end Jason Taylor won last year when he was still playing the Miami Dolphins. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Payton’s widow, Connie, made the presentation.

Black and gold galore

Steelers fans have a reputation for taking over stadiums wherever Pittsburgh plays, and it was no different Sunday.

Black and gold jerseys and Terrible Towels dominated the stands, and some of the early arrivers lined the railing overlooking the area where the team buses pulled into Raymond James Stadium more than three hours before the game.

Coach Mike Tomlin, attempting to become the youngest coach in league history to win a Super Bowl, led the AFC champions off the bus, and many of the players carried video cameras and taped teammates as they walked to the locker room.

Inside, Steelers kicker Jeff Reed was among the first players on the field, practicing field goals with the Pittsburgh faithful cheering every time he split the uprights. Warner entered to applause from Cardinals fans, and a few minutes later Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made his entrance to a louder ovation.

Taste of sunshine

With the Super Bowl being played in Tampa for the fourth time and 15 players who either attended college or grew up in Florida, Sunday’s title game had a distinct Sunshine State flavor.

The Steelers had eight players - receivers Santonio Holmes and Dallas Baker, cornerbacks Bryant McFadden and William Gay, safety Tyrone Carter, offensive lineman Max Starks, linebacker Lawrence Timmons and defensive end Orpheus Rolle - with Florida ties.

The Cardinals had seven: receiver Anquan Boldin, defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, running back Edgerrin James, safety Antrel Rolle and cornerbacks Eric Green and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who came closest to being a hometown product. He’s from Bradenton, about 45 minutes south of Tampa.

The Super Bowl has been played 13 times in Florida, including once in Jacksonville and eight times in Miami, site of next year’s game.

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