Manning, Peterson among NFL 101 Award winners
Peyton Manning won his seventh NFL 101 Award on Saturday night
as AFC offensive player of the year.
The Denver quarterback came back from a neck injury and
transitioned to a new team, and had one of his best seasons. He led
the Broncos to a 13-3 season and threw for 4,659 yards and 37
Manning said receiving the award meant a little more to him this
”Absolutely, there’s no question that it does,” he said.
”When you are making a comeback, it’s because you love the game
and want to help the team win. An individual award isn’t the goal,
but it’s very much appreciated and it’s extremely gratifying.”
Other honorees on included: Minnesota running back Adrian
Peterson for NFC offensive player of the year; Houston defensive
end J.J. Watt for AFC defensive player of the year; San Francisco
linebacker Aldon Smith for NFC defensive player of the year; Chuck
Pagano and Bruce Arians of the Colts were co-winners for AFC coach
of the year; and Pete Carroll of the Seahawks for NFC coach of the
Don Shula, the NFL’s winningest coach, received the Lamar Hunt
Award for his impact on the NFL and former safety Dick Anderson was
saluted for his contributions to the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ 17-0
Manning’s appearance capped a whirlwind day in which he awoke in
Germany as part of a USO tour visiting the troops. The flight back
to the United States landed in Washington, D.C., and Manning was
then able to catch another flight to Kansas City, arriving in time
for a pre-event news conference.
”At each stage this season, I’d reflect back to what I was
doing a year ago at that point,” said Manning, who sat out the
2011 season because of the neck injury. ”I’ve been reflective all
year and this is a nice way to culminate it. This has really been a
special comeback and there is an endless list of people who have
helped me along the way.”
One of those helpers was Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who served
as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee when Manning played for
the Vols. Manning spent time working with Cutcliffe in Durham,
N.C., last year and selected Cutcliffe to introduce him at
”The most incredible part is that a guy who had already done it
all was willing to push himself over the top to get back,”
Cutcliffe said. ”That defines Peyton Manning. I don’t think
anybody else could have done it.”
Smith’s appearance enabled him to come full circle. The 49er
linebacker accepted his award just a few miles from Raytown High
School where he played through 2007. Smith led the NFC and was
second in the NFL last season with 19.5 sacks.
”They retired my jersey at the school (Friday), so coming back
and then receiving this award is a pretty good homecoming
present,” Smith said.
Pagano and Arians combined to lead the Colts to an 11-5 record
and a spot in the AFC playoffs. After Pagano left the team Oct. 1
to begin treatments for leukemia, Arians took over and the Colts
responded to claim a Wild Card spot.
”I’ve always felt that if you gave NFL players an extra reason
to play other than a paycheck, they could bond and rally and
anything could happen,” Arians said.
In his third season with the Seahawks, Carroll saw his team go
11-5 and pick up a wild card playoff win at Washington.
”We’re proud of where we are right now,” Carroll said.
”(Quarterback) Russell Wilson is one of the most exciting players
in the league and could turn any program around.”
Peterson led the NFL with 2,097 rushing yards, becoming just the
seventh player to crack the 2,000 mark. Watt had a league-high 20.5
sacks and league-high 16 passes defended. Both players had prior
commitments and were represented Saturday by their head
Shula entertained the audience with memories of the
Chiefs-Dolphins double-overtime playoff game on Christmas Day,
”We managed to hang on and win with a field goal at the end,”
Shula said. ”When we got back to Miami, the fans had left their
homes on Christmas to welcome us. They lined up around the airport
and it was one of the great days of my life.
”Maybe this isn’t the place to talk about it,” Shula added as
laughter broke out. ”But I thought I’d talk about it anyway.”