For the first time in history, the 101 Awards will honor two players in the same category after receiving an unprecedented tie in AFC Offensive Player of the Year voting.
For the first time in its 45-year history, the NFL 101 Awards will honor five outstanding players instead of four after voters named Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown—both of the Pittsburgh Steelers—as co-winners of the AFC Offensive Player of the Year award. They will be joined by NFL superstars Aaron Rogers, J.J. Watt and Richard Sherman, along with coaches Bill Belichick and Bruce Arians, in receiving the year's top honors at the 45th Annual NFL 101 Awards.
The black-tie awards gala, presented by Garmin and Burns & McDonnell,* *is scheduled for Saturday, February 28, 2015, at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Founded in 1969 by a group led by Kansas City businessman Jack O. Wheeler, the NFL 101 Awards has annually recognized outstanding achievement in professional football based on votes by a selection committee of the national media. Many of the greatest players and coaches ever to take the fields have accepted NFL 101 Awards, and this year's class is no different in terms of talent.
Sharing the honors as AFC Player of the Year, BellandBrown led the Pittsburgh Steelers to an AFC North title in 2014 and an 11-6 record. Both were named to the PFWA All-NFL team and both were selected to the Pro Bowl. Bell, the Steelers team MVP, led the AFC in rushing with 1,361 yards and added another 854 yards on 83 pass receptions, surpassing the 2,000-total-yard mark. He became only the second running back in NFL history to total more than 200 yards in three consecutive games. Brown led the NFL in both receptions (129) and receiving yards (1,698) during the 2014 regular season. Also one of the league's top punt returners, he made NFL history in 2011 by becoming the first NFL player to notch 1,000 yards in both receiving and returning in a single season.
The AFC Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, 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. In just his fourth NFL season, Watt is already Houston's all-time sacks leader and, for his efforts, was unanimously named to the 2014 All-Pro First Team and to his third Pro Bowl. He is the first player ever to record 20 or more sacks in two seasons (2012, 2014) and won NFL 101 Awards both years.
On the NFC side, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is receiving his second NFL 101 NFC Offensive Player of the Yearaward, after previously earning the honor in 2011. Rodgers has been atop the league MVP discussions for his brilliance under center this season, leading the NFC in passing touchdowns and guiding the Packers to a 12-4 record and the NFC North championship. His touchdown-to-interception ratio of 38-5 was the league's best and led to a robust 112.2 QB rating. He was named to the All-Pro First Team and selected to his fourth Pro Bowl.
Taking the NFC Defensive Player of the Year award is Seattle Seahawks' cornerback Richard Sherman. After being named the Best Breakthrough Athlete of the Year at the 2014 ESPY Awards, Sherman lived up to the title earning his third consecutive First-team All-Pro honor and his second trip to the Pro Bowl. As one of the most feared cornerbacks in the NFL, Sherman has notched at least four interceptions in each of his four pro seasons—8 in both 2012 and 2013—forcing quarterbacks to avoid passing to his side of the field. Sherman and Seattle's top-ranked defense powered the Seahawks to this year's NFC Championship and a chance to defend their Super Bowl title.
When it comes to active coaching legends, this year's AFC Coach of the Year, Bill Belichick, is at the top of the list. The only NFL coach ever to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span, Belichick has spent the last 15 seasons making a dynasty out of the New England Patriots. A three-time AP NFL Coach of the Year, Belichick once again guided the Patriots to an AFC East title—their sixth straight—and a 12-4 record. He then guided the Patriots to the AFC Championship to earn a berth in Super Bowl XLIX and, in the process, surpassed Tom Landry as the winningest coach in NFL post-season history with 21 victories.
The NFC Coach of the Year, Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals, has made a habit out of transforming losing teams into winners. In his second season with the Cardinals, Arians has taken a 5-11 team from 2012 and turned them into a 10-6 and 11-5 team in 2013 and 2014 respectively. After entering the NFL coaching ranks in 1989 as a position coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, Arians took his first head coaching assignment in 2012 with the Indianapolis Colts as an interim after Head Coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. That season, he led the previously 2-14 Colts to an 11-5 record and became the first interim head coach to earn the AP NFL Coach of the Year award.
In addition to the player and coach awards, the Committee of 101 presents the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football, which was created in 2007 to honor the life and legacy of the Kansas City Chiefs' founder. This award recognizes a person or group whose visionary leadership has significantly contributed to NFL and its status as the preeminent pro sports league in America. The recipient of this year's Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football is former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who served in the role from 1989 to 2006.
During his tenure as NFL Commissioner, Tagliabue increased the league's presence by expanding the number of teams from 28 to 32. He presided over a very successful era that included record growth in fan interest and revenue in addition to an extended period of labor-management peace. Over his watch, the league 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 once again be directed to the Truman Medical Center Charitable Foundation. TMC and the Kansas City Chiefs are working together to provide wellness education and promote healthier living for the people of Kansas City. Both organizations play an active and important role in the vitality of the city and share a common desire to improve the health status of the urban core.
Take a look at last year's 101 Awards, honoring the best in Pro Football.