101 Awards Recap: Alex Smith and Eric Berry Talk About What Makes KC Special

The NFL’s top players and coaches from the 2015 season named winners at the 46th annual NFL 101 Awards

For the 46th consecutive year, the 101 Awards was a chance for the NFL to shine its light on the greatest players and performances of the previous season. 

On Saturday night at the Westin Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City, the nation's longest-running salute to professional football was once again on display.

It started with a press conference for all of the award winners who were in attendance.

Here's a look at the National 101 Award winners for 2015:

AFC Offensive Player of the Year - Tom Brady

AFC Defensive Player of the Year-J.J. Watt

NFC Offensive Player of the Year - Cam Newton

NFC Defensive Player of the Year - Aaron Donald

AFC Coach of the Year - Andy Reid

NFC Coach of the Year - Ron Rivera

Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football - Super Bowl I

  • For more information on these awards, click here.

The 101 Awards show will air on NFL Network on Saturday, March 19 at 6:00 p.m. CT.

The night also provided an opportunity for the Kansas City Chiefs to announce a few of their own honors as well (for more information on these awards, click here).

Derrick Thomas Award (Co-MVP's) – safety Eric Berry, quarterback Alex Smith

Eric Berry's story is widely known by now. Just a year removed from a bout with cancer, he returned to the field and played well enough to be named a first-team All-Pro.

Simply amazing.

Now, just a few weeks removed from being named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year, Berry was honored by his teammates with the Derrick Thomas Award—given to the team MVP, an honor he shared with quarterback Alex Smith.

Berry spoke about what the last year has been like and how the people around him helped him get through it.

"You get that true family feel," Berry said of the Chiefs organization. "Having that support going through the process, I was stress-free about pressing myself to get back on to the field— that was definitely a big help.

"Then, just so much support from the fans. That was amazing. Looking up on the TV screen watching my teammates play, even seeing my teammates with the 'Berry Strong' shirts, and seeing the fans with different pictures and things they've drawn up to show their support, I watched those games and saw those things, and it definitely helped me get back to where I needed to be."

Smith, who had the best season of his career in 2015, spoke about what the award means to him.

"I kind of think of football as the ultimate team sport," Smith said. "It's funny to get an individual recognition. But with that, this is a tremendous honor. I think any time your peers vote on something like this, and to be recognized with an award of this caliber is very, very humbling.

"It makes it even more humbling when you get to share it with a guy like [Eric Berry]. The player that he is, the person that he is and the teammate that he is, to be able to share this with him is very, very special, and a great honor."

Mack Lee Hill Award (Top Rookie) – cornerback Marcus Peters

Marcus Peters was just recently named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year, and now he's been recognized by his teammates with the Mack Lee Hill Award.

"It's a tremendous honor," Peters said. "It was a long road that I had to travel before I could even to get to play the game of football with the Chiefs organization. So I would like to thank the Hunt family for taking the risk on me. The first day when I got the call and reported (to Kansas City), it felt like home.

"With me coming into a wonderful group as I did—with Alex [Smith], Eric [Berry], Derrick Johnson, Tamba [Hali], Justin Houston and Jamaal Charles, it makes your rookie season be that much smoothly. All you have to go out there and be yourself and play the game of football. The whole Kansas City vibe, I love it. I wouldn't rather be anywhere else."

The Newest and 46th Member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame – Fullback Tony Richardson

For more on Richardson's induction, click here.

After the press conferences, there was a cocktail hour where members of the Chiefs coaching staff, former greats like Christian Okoye, Marcus Allen, Trent Green and all of the award winners, rubbed elbows with the more than 600 people who were at the event.

Here are just a few highlights from the dinner portion of the evening:

Former NFL head coach, Super Bowl champion and one-time defensive coordinator of the Chiefs, Bill Cowher (1989-91), who alongside NBC Sports' Paul Burmeister hosted the event, said the three years he spent in Kansas City were the most fun he had in his entire career, adding the town will always be special to him.Eric Berry said that last year he and his fellow defensive players would often play Mario Kart together, and he believes it helped them grow closer as a team, saying "You'd be surprised how much closer it can bring you."

Aqib Talib, who was there representing the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, made jokes about often re-watching the win over the Carolina Panthers "when he can't find anything else on the DVR."

Both Smith and Berry spoke about how special the Kansas City community is and what it means to them as players.

Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and defensive tackle Aaron Donald took the stage together to talk about Donald's dominant season and how Williams knew all about him dating back to his time at the University of Pittsburgh. Williams' son played at Virginia Tech.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman sat together to talk about the development of their team over the past few years and the patience needed for them to have the kind of success they've seen recently.

Towards the end of the evening, Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt took the stage with Hall of Famers Jim Taylor of the Green Bay Packers and Bobby Bell of the Chiefs to recognize Super Bowl I. Taylor and Bell shared stories of what it was like to play in that first Super Bowl and what it has become today because of the vision of Lamar Hunt—the founder of both the AFL and the Chiefs.  

Again, you can catch the replay of the entire show on NFL Network on Saturday, March 19 at 6:00 p.m. CT.

Photos from the 101 Awards dinner.

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