Every day, Dustin Colquitt comes down the stairs from the coaches’ offices at the Chiefs’ training facility and turns right to head down the hallway to the locker room.
And every day, the 36-year-old punter passes a 30-foot wall dedicated to the Chiefs’ five Walter Payton Man of the Year winners. There’s the larger-than-life quote from 2009 winner Willie Lanier — “It’s the greatest honor I’ve ever received.” — along with five floor-to-ceiling panels honoring each of the previous winners: Brian Waters (2009), Will Shields (2003), Derrick Thomas (1993), Len Dawson (1973), Willie Lanier (1972).
In the center of four of the five panels is a photo of Lamar Hunt handing the iconic trophy to that year’s recipient. In the fifth, his son, Clark Hunt, is handing the trophy to Waters.
On Thursday, Colquitt learned he could be the next Chief to land on that wall when he was announced as one of this year’s 32 nominees.
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“This has been a historical thing for their organization to be proud of,” Colquitt said. “I was just proud. We do it because this is our community. They get up here every Sunday, Monday or Thursday night and they kill it for us. They cook their barbecue, they take their time with that. On top of that, they want to watch good football.
“It’s just, it’s a fantastic place. To be able to serve them in that capacity, off the field and spend time where there’s true need in the city, it’s great.”
Colquitt, who’s been with the organization since he was selected in the third round of the 2005 draft, was primarily nominated for his work with TeamSmile, an organization that provides dental care to underserved children. In the last 12 years, he’s helped give 40,000 kids $18 million worth of complimentary dental and preventative care and education. He also has a “Punting for Smiles” campaign, where he raises $500 per punt inside the the 20-yard line. Each year, Colquitt also donates $20,000 to the organization.
But for Colquitt, TeamSmile is more than about helping kids with their oral health.
“We have these kids come in and they’re wrapping their gums around their teeth, don’t really want to talk to you,” said Colquitt, who has punted 34 times for 1,535 yards this season. “Then you clean it up, you turn the mirror around and they’re like, ‘Oh my.’ You just see this confidence that they’ve never seen in their lives. You see their parents. They’re not coming up to their kids because they’re happy that their teeth are clean. They’re saying, this is not my kid. He’s got his chest pumped out.”
For Colquitt, who was also the Chiefs’ nominee in 2009, his dedication to community service comes from growing up in the church. When he signed his contract with the Chiefs 13 years ago, he noticed the provision that stipulated he be involved in the community five times a year.
But that just wasn’t enough.
“We’re taught to love and serve,” Colquitt said. “Love others is the biggest thing I can say. So how do you do that? You do that with the resources that God gave you, which is, it can be treasure, it can be time. Just talking to people. Anything like that.”
The winner of the award will receive $250,000 donated to United Way in his name to expand the Character Playbook and $250,000 donated to the charity of his choice. The rest of the nominees will receive a $50,000 donation to United Way in their names along with a $50,000 donation to the charity of their choice. If he wins, Colquitt will become the first punter to take home the award. Only one kicker, Rolf Benirschke, has won the award.
“He’s a great character guy,” special teams coach Dave Toub said of Colquitt. “He’s a family man. He’s a man of faith. He does everything right off the field as well on as on the field. It doesn’t surprise me one bit. Personally, he helps my wife, she’s part of the Bra Couture, it’s a breast cancer thing. He helps her 100 percent. No one knows about that. That’s just one thing that he does personally. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he was named Man of the Year by our team.”
This week, Colquitt is representing TeamSmile on his customized My Cause, My Cleats shoes. One of the gold cleats has TeamSmile written in blue lettering on the side while the other has a Walter Payton logo next to a TeamSmile logo.
“It’s like a Usain Bolt, gold, flashy, kind of everything that I’m not,” Colquitt said with a laugh. “So I hope it brings a lot of awareness to TeamSmile. That’s what it deserves.”
Colquitt won’t find out if he’ll join the fraternity of the Chiefs’ Walter Payton Man of the Year winners until February, but for him, being nominated is a huge honor.
“I know there’s 32 of these guys, but all 32 of these guys today are saying wow, ‘Walter Payton, what did he do? How did he embody a city and how did he change things?,’” Colquitt said. “It wasn’t just in between the white lines. It was in communities and changing people’s mind frames how they think and how they love and how they care for each other and communities. I’m humbled and excited for the possibility of doing that.”