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J.J. Watt Named NFL 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year

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(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

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Two offensive players who came back from serious injuries to lead their teams to the playoffs and two second-year defensive standouts will join coaches who engineered two of the league’s best stories as the 2012 winners of the annual NFL 101 Awards – the nation’s premier football awards event dedicated exclusively to the National Football League.

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has been selected as the AFC Offensive Player of the Year after returning from an injury that sidelined him in 2011 to lead a new team – the Denver Broncos – to a 13-3 record and the AFC West title. A seven-time 101 Award winner, Manning finished the regular season with 4,659 passing yards and 37 touchdowns through the air. His passer rating of 105.8 was tops in the AFC and his 68.6 completion percentage tied for first in the NFL. He was named to a record 12th Pro Bowl. Statistically, it was the second-best season of his 15-year NFL career. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been selected as the NFC Offensive Player of the Year. Similar to Manning, Peterson returned to action after suffering a serious injury and missing the final four games of last season. After a strenuous rehabilitation and recovery period, Peterson returned to lead the NFL in rushing with 2,097 yards in 2012. He fell just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season rushing record. The Vikings’ star led the league in yards per game (131.1) and scored 12 touchdowns. The five-time Pro Bowl selection helped Minnesota to a 10-6 record and a spot in the playoffs.

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is the AFC Defensive Player of the Year. Watt recorded an NFL-best 20.5 sacks for 139 yards lost in 2012. He also broke up 16 passes – five of which ended up as interceptions – and forced four fumbles. Houston finished the year 12-4 and won the AFC South division. Watt is a first-time 101 Award winner and Pro Bowl selection and has started every game for the Texans after being drafted with the 11th overall pick two years ago. San Francisco linebacker and former Raytown High School and University of Missouri standout Aldon Smith has been selected the NFC Defensive Player of the Year. Smith was second in the league to Watt with 19.5 sacks for 145 yards lost. He recorded one interception and forced three fumbles, leading the 49ers to an 11-4-1 record and the NFC West Division title. Smith is a first-time 101 Award winner and Pro Bowl selection and was drafted with theseventh overall pick two years ago.

After an unforgettable year in Indianapolis fueled by a heartwarming story of two coaches combining to lead the team through emotional challenges, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians are co-winners of the AFC Coach of the Year award. In their first year with the Colts, Pagano and Arians teamed to lead Indianapolis – a team that had won just two games a season ago – to an 11-5 record and a spot in the AFC wild card game. Pagano began the season as the head coach but had to leave the team October 1 to be treated for leukemia. In his absence, Arians guided the Colts to a 9-3 record as interim head coach. Pagano returned for the final regular-season game and the playoff game. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has been named the NFC Coach of the Year after leading Seattle to a spectacular season in his third year as the Seahawks coach. Carroll’s team finished the 2012 regular season with an 11-5 record and then beat the Washington Redskins in a wild card playoff game before a last-second, season-ending loss in the NFC Divisional playoffs. The 11 wins were the third-most in Seahawks history, and the playoff win at Washington was the team’s first road playoff victory in nearly 30 years.

A national media committee, comprised of 101 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the NFL, selected the winners in each award category in a nationwide vote at the conclusion of the regular season.

In addition to these award winners, the Committee of 101 also selects the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football, which was created in 2007 to honor the life and legacy of the founder of the Kansas City Chiefs and given in recognition of visionary leadership that has helped the NFL become the preeminent pro sports league in America. This year’s Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football award winner will be announced in February.

The awards show hosts for the evening will be NFL Network sportscaster Paul Burmeister and CBS football analyst Rich Gannon, a former NFL Most Valuable Player and two-time 101 Award winner.

Event proceeds will be directed to the Truman Medical Center Charitable Foundation. The Chiefs and TMC are working together to provide wellness education and promote healthier living for the people of Kansas City.  Both TMC and the Chiefs play a vital role in the Kansas City community and this partnership capitalizes on two well-established brands for the common goal of improving the health status of the community in general, and of the citizens in the urban core particularly.

AFC Offensive Player of the Year, Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos

  • Seven-time 101 Award winner (record)
  • Top-rated passer in AFC with 105.8 rating
  • His 4,659 passing yards were second in AFC and sixth in NFL while his 37 touchdowns were best in AFC and third in NFL
  • Selected to the Pro Bowl for a 12th time (QB record)
  • Four-time NFL MVP (record)
  • Only quarterback in league history to pass for more than 4,000 yards 12 times
  • Led the Broncos to a 13-3 record, the AFC West Division title and the top seed in the AFC

NFC Offensive Player of the Year, Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings

  • First-time 101 Award winner
  • First in the NFL in rushing yards (2,097), yards per game (131.1), and carries for 20 or more yards (27)
  • Second in the league in yards per carry (6.0) and tied for third in the league with 12 touchdowns
  • Selected to the Pro Bowl for a fifth time
  • Only the seventh player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season
  • Led the Vikings to a 10-6 record, a second-place finish in the NFC North and a wild card berth

AFC Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans

  • First-time 101 Award winner
  • First in the NFL with 20.5 sacks for 139 yards lost, recorded 81 tackles and forced four fumbles
  • First in the league with 16 passes defended, leading to five interceptions
  • Broke the Texans record for sacks in a single season
  • Selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time
  • Led the Texans to a 12-4 record, the AFC South Division title and a second straight trip to the playoffs

NFC Defensive Player of the Year, Aldon Smith, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers

  • First-time 101 Award winner
  • First in NFC and second in NFL with 19.5 sacks, recorded 66 tackles and forced three fumbles
  • Fastest player in the NFL to record 30 sacks, accounting for 33.5 his first two seasons
  • Set franchise record for single-season sacks this year after establishing the rookie sack record in 2011
  • Selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time
  • Led the 49ers to an 11-4-1 record and the NFC West Division title

AFC Coach of the Year, Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts

  • Combined to lead the Colts to an 11-5 record and a spot in the AFC wild card game
  • Pagano left the team October 1 to begin treatments for leukemia. Arians took over as interim head coach until Pagano returned December 24
  • Both coaches are in their first year with Indianapolis
  • Pagano spent the previous three seasons as the secondary coach and then defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens
  • Arians spent the previous eight seasons as the wide receivers coach and then offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Arians was running backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1989-92

NFC Coach of the Year, Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

  • In his third year with the Seahawks and has compiled a regular-season coaching record of 58-54
  • Led Seattle to an 11-5 record; the 11 wins are third-most in franchise history
  • Wild card playoff win at Washington was Seahawks first road playoff victory in nearly 30 years
  • Went undefeated at home for just third time in Seahawks history
  • Also served stints as head coach for the Jets (1994) and the Patriots (1997-99)
  • Came to Seattle after coaching USC to a 97-19 record, six BCS bowl wins and two national championship game appearances



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