Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy broke John Brockington’s rookie rushing record this season.
And now he’s the Packers’ first Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year since Brockington in 1971.
A second-round pick from Alabama, Lacy was a key performer in the Packers' offense, particularly when star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sidelined for seven games. He rushed for 1,178 yards on 284 carries (4.1 average), with 11 touchdowns. He also had 35 receptions.
That was good enough for 35 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league in balloting announced Saturday night.
"I'm comfortable where I am, and my teammates believe in me, and they make me feel comfortable, so I'm able to play the way I'm capable of playing," Lacy said.
Lacy beat out San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen, who received 12 votes. He is the first running back to take the offensive rookie honors since Adrian Peterson in 2007.
“Eddie Lacy is an impact player,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at the end of the season. “When you have impact players coming into your program, obviously it makes a difference. Eddie definitely did that. Eddie was the lead dog (in an improved run game). I can’t say enough about his performance. What’s exciting about Eddie is he’s green. He’s got a lot to learn, (and) there’s things that he can do much better just to be an every-down back. I’m not only excited about what he just accomplished as a rookie, but really moving forward I think he can be even better.”
Since The Associated Press started naming offensive and defensive rookies of the year in 1967, Lacy, Brockington and cornerback Willie Buchanon (1972) and the only winners for the Packers. Cornerback Casey Hayward finished second in voting for the defensive award last year.
Aaron Rodgers’ fourth-down touchdown pass to Randall Cobb to beat Chicago and send the Packers into the playoffs won the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Year. Rodgers’ performance was selected in online voting at NFL.com/gmc.
Rodgers beat out Manning’s four touchdowns against Dallas in Week 5, Carolina’s Luke Kuechly’s dominant performance vs. San Francisco in Week 10, Tom Brady’s comeback win over Dener in Week 12 and Joe Flacco’s last-second touchdown pass to beat Minnesota in a wild Week 14 game.
Rodgers also won the Bart Starr Award on Friday. The award annual goes to a player for his character and leadership on the field and in the community.
“It’s very special to win an award that’s named in honor of someone I really look up to and someone who’s been a great role model for me and for the Packers organization,” Rodgers told Packers.com.
Meanwhile, Peyton Manning's record-setting season earned him The Associated Press NFL MVP award in a landslide. Manning won for the fifth time; no other player has won more than three.
Manning, who threw for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards in leading the Broncos to the AFC's best record, earned 49 of the 50 votes. New England quarterback Tom Brady got the other vote.
Manning won his other MVPs with Indianapolis in 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009. He also was the runner-up last season to Adrian Peterson.
"I am humbled by this recognition and grateful to my family, (Broncos owner) Pat Bowlen, John Elway, John Fox and the entire Denver Broncos organization, and of course, my coaches and my teammates," Manning said in a prepared video acceptance speech. He was not on hand as he gets ready for Sunday's Super Bowl against Seattle.
"Now, I sent a couple of guys over there tonight to pick up the trophy on my behalf: my father Archie and my son Marshall. Thank you very much and God bless you."
Archie Manning, holding his grandson Marshall in his arms, accepted the award from two more MVPs, Joe Montana and Aaron Rodgers.
Manning still trails several Hall of Famers for total MVPs in their sport. Wayne Gretzky won nine NHL MVPs, Barry Bonds owns seven in baseball, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six in the NBA.
Manning also took the AP's Offensive Player of the Year award for the second time. Manning received 33 votes, running back LeSean McCoy of Philadelphia was second with 10 votes, followed by Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles with four.
Carolina grabbed two major awards, with Ron Rivera winning AP NFL Coach of the Year and Kuechly voted top defensive player.
Rivera engineered the Panthers' turnaround from a 7-9 record to 12-4, the NFC South title and a first-round playoff bye. He got 21 1/2 first-place votes to 13 1/2 for Kansas City’s Andy Reid. Rivera is the second Panthers coach to win the award. Dom Capers was AP Coach of the Year in 1996, Carolina's second season in the NFL.
Kuechly keyed a defense that allowed 241 points, less than every team except NFC champion Seattle. Kuechly received 19 votes, ahead of Indianapolis All-Pro linebacker Mathis, who earned 11 1/2.
Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was the Defensive Rookie of the Year by a narrow margin, with 23 first-place votes to runner-up Kiko Alonso’s 19.
Richardson joked about the possibility of winning both awards — he scored two touchdowns as a fullback in goal-line situations.
"Eddie Lacy beat me out there," Richardson said. "He had a few more touchdowns than I did."
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers took the Comeback Player of the Year award. Rivers led the Chargers to a wild-card playoff spot with four straight victories to close out the schedule, giving them a 9-7 record. He led the league with a 69.5 completion rate and threw for 32 TDs against 11 interceptions. He received 13 votes in balloting so widespread that 12 players got votes.
Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, and accepted the honor with tears in his eyes.
"As a Chicago Bear, this award has a special meaning to me," Tillman said.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.