The 45th annual NFL 101 Awards winners will have a new twist this year.
Committee of 101 voters selected Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown as co-winners of the AFC Offensive Player of the Year, the first time two players will share an award.
They will be joined by Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers as NFC Offensive Player of the Year; Houston defensive end J.J. Watt as AFC Defensive Player of the Year; Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman as NFC Defensive Player of the Year; New England’s Bill Belichick as AFC Coach of the Year; and Arizona’s Bruce Arians as NFC Coach of the Year.
The award winners will be honored at the annual salute to pro football on Feb. 28 at the Westin Crown Center.
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Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will receive the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football, which was created in 2007 and recognizes a person or group whose leadership has contributed to the NFL.
In addition, the newest member of the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame will be introduced at the black-tie gala; and the winners of the Chiefs’ Derrick Thomas MVP award and Mack Lee Hill Rookie of the Year for 2014 will be announced.
Bell, the Steelers’ team MVP, led the AFC in rushing with 1,361 yards and caught 83 passes for 854 yards, giving him an AFC-most 2,215 yards from scrimmage. Brown led the NFL in both receptions (129) and receiving yards (1,698) with 13 touchdowns.
Watt put together one of the most dominant defensive seasons in NFL history — 20.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, an interception and a touchdown. He also scored three touchdowns on offense while being utilized in goal-line situations. Watt, in just his fourth season, is the first player ever to record 20 or more sacks in two seasons (2012, 2014), and he won NFL 101 Awards both years.
Rodgers is receiving his second NFL 101 NFC Offensive Player of the Year award, having previously earned the honor in 2011. Rodgers, a favorite to win NFL MVP honors, guided the Packers to a 12-4 record and berth in the NFC Championship Game. He led the NFC with 38 touchdown passes, and his touchdown to interception differential of 38-5 was the league’s best.
Sherman, a key figure in Seattle’s Legion of Boom secondary, has intercepted 24 passes in his four NFL seasons, including four this season, and has been effective negating opposing teams’ top receiver. Sherman had an interception in the Seahawks’ victory over Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game and is a key reason Seattle had the NFL’s top-ranked defense and will defend its title in the Super Bowl.
Belichick, the only NFL coach ever to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span, guided New England to a 12-4 record and to its sixth Super Bowl since 2001. Arians led Arizona to an 11-5 record despite a siege of injuries that cost his team several key starters, including two quarterbacks. Arians spent 1989-92 as the Chiefs’ running backs coach.
Tagliabue succeeded Pete Rozelle as NFL commissioner and served in the role during 1989-2006. During his tenure, the league expanded from 28 to 32 teams, enjoyed an extended period of labor peace, secured the largest television contract in entertainment history, created the NFL Network, developed policies to finance the construction of more than 20 team stadiums, and expanded the NFL’s global reach.
Proceeds from the NFL 101 Awards event will be directed to the Truman Medical Center Charitable Foundation.