FOXBORO, Mass. — Nate Solder was recognized Thursday as the New England Patriots’ nominee for the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, given annually to a player who displays “excellence on and off the field.”

From the NFL’s official Man of the Year announcement:

“Nate Solder’s devotion to helping others and countless hours of volunteerism is remarkable. Nate has consistently been one of the most active players in the New England community. Whether he’s reading to children, visiting hospitals or offering his support to families in need during the holidays, the Patriots can always count on Nate to be one of the first players to volunteer.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft presented Solder with a trophy commemorating his nomination, calling the veteran offensive tackle a “gentle giant” and commending him for his “exemplary” work in the community.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered similar praise when asked about Solder during his Friday morning news conference.

“Off the field, I think his involvement with his family and what he does in other areas — charitable areas, underprivileged children and hospital visits and so forth — is exemplary, and it’s been well-recognized, as well,” Belichick said after praising Solder’s on-field performance. “I think he does a great job.”

Much of Solder’s charitable work has benefited cancer research. Solder is a cancer survivor himself, and his 2-year-old son, Hudson, currently is battling pediatric kidney cancer.

As part of the “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative last weekend, Solder wore cleats promoting the Jimmy Fund and Joe Andruzzi Foundation. The cleats featured a drawing of Hudson’s face alongside the words “Strong like my daddy.”

For the first time, Solder and the other 31 Man of the Year nominees will wear special decals on their helmets for the remainder of the season. Each player who has won the Man of the Year Award will wear an identical patch on his jersey for the rest of his career.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, one of five active Man of the Year recipients, debuted the patch during Thursday night’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

No Patriots player ever has won the Man of the Year Award, which was introduced in 1970 and renamed after Payton in 1999.

Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images