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Colts QB Luck, linebacker Leonard win NFL season honors

February 2, 2019

Andrew Luck was named The Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year on Saturday in a landslide win over J.J. Watt.

And linebacker Darius Leonard, the Colts’ second-round pick out of South Carolina State, is AP 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Luck, the Indianapolis quarterback who missed the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury, got 44 votes from a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league.

That far outpaced the four votes for Houston's All-Pro edge rusher Watt. Redskins running back Adrian Peterson received two votes in balloting announced at NFL Honors.

Luck's sensational return, in which he led the Colts to a 10-6 record, wild-card playoff berth and a victory at Houston, erased any doubts that the 2012 top overall draft choice could be a force in the NFL again. He was second in the league with 39 touchdown passes, throwing for 4,593 yards. He established career highs in completions, attempts and percentage and was sacked a league-low 18 times.
He's the first Indianapolis player to win the award.

"I truly believe there are players on every team, every roster that could be Comeback Player of the Year in their own ways," Luck said. "Honestly, the best part was playing football again — having fun playing football and being pain free."

No team had a better draft last April than Indianapolis. A huge portion of the proof was Leonard, who led the Colts in tackles with a franchise-record 163, added 13 in a playoff victory over Houston, and made the All-Pro team.

He earned 29 votes from a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league, nine in front of Chargers safety Derwin James.

Denver DE Bradley Chubb got the other vote in balloting announced at NFL Honors. Both James and Chubb was selected in the first 17 picks, while Leonard went 36th.

A dominant performer at an FCS school, Leonard impressed general manager Chris Ballard when Leonard made 19 tackles against eventual national champion Clemson in 2016.

Leonard simply got better in college, and throughout his pro debut. He had seven sacks, six forced fumbles and two interceptions despite missing one game with a knee injury.
Indianapolis had another rookie All-Pro in guard Quenton Nelson, its opening-round draft pick.
Leonard is the second Indianapolis player to take the award, joining linebacker Duane Bickett (1985).

In other awards:

Patrick Mahomes' breathtaking breakthrough season earned him the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.

The Chiefs quarterback landed a pair of honors at NFL Honors on Saturday night, taking The Associated Press 2018 MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards. In his second pro season, Mahomes led Kansas City to its first AFC title game since 1993 with some of the most creative and clutch plays the league has seen in years.

"I'm so humbled," he said. "This is just the beginning. We've got a long ways to go.
"It is an honor. It's a hard award to win. The next award I hope I can get is the Super Bowl."

Mahomes received 41 votes from a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees got the other nine.

With only one previous start, Mahomes entered the season as something of a curiosity in Kansas City after the Chiefs traded veteran Alex Smith to open up the job. It didn't take long to erase any doubts as Mahomes led the Chiefs to their first AFC title game since the 1993 season, throwing for 50 touchdowns, 5,097 yards and had a 113.8 QB rating, trailing only Brees.

Mahomes' ingenuity — the guy can throw from all angles and make plays inside and outside the pocket — energized the Chiefs' fan base and excited fans across the league.

"The play is never dead. He can find new ways to get you the ball," Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce said. "It may look like a screwball, a slider here or there, but it'll get to you eventually."

Mahomes is the sixth straight quarterback and 11th of the past 12 years to win MVP. No Kansas City player had won the award since the Chiefs joined the NFL in 1970.

Earlier, he was selected as the top offensive
player, beating Brees 30 votes to 16.

"Yeah, I mean, it's awesome ... I got put into a great situation," he said. "I got to learn behind a great quarterback in Alex Smith. I got to be on a team with a lot of playmakers who helped me excel my game and make me look really good on a daily basis. And, then, to be able to go out there and win football games in front of a passionate fan base is something I get the luxury of doing."

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who will play in Sunday's Super Bowl against New England, took his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award.

Donald, the only unanimous All-Pro this season and the first Rams player selected for top defensive honor, joins Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt as players to win the award in back-to-back seasons. Donald led the NFL with 20-½ sacks.

"Any time you put a body of work into it and then it pays off," Donald said, "and you're rewarded for it, it means a lot. It's a blessing."

Chicago's Matt Nagy, in his first season with the Bears, was voted Coach of the Year.

Nagy has overseen the development of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who blossomed in his second pro season, and saw a defense befitting the "Monsters of the Midway" dominate opponents at times. He is the fifth Bears coach to win the award, joining team founder George Halas (1963, 1965), Mike Ditka (1985, 1988), Dick Jauron (2001) and Lovie Smith (2005).

"It's crazy to think this is one person, so for me, it's being a part of this organization and for our players," Nagy said. "Just being able to believe in what we wanted to do with our culture and then follow through with it."

Giants running back Saquon Barkley was the top offensive rookie.

Described by some as a "generational running back," Barkley rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns behind a weak New York offensive line. He drew 26-½ votes and edged Baker Mayfield. The Cleveland quarterback who was selected first overall in the draft, one spot in front of Barkley, earned 21-½ votes.

Barkley also made a team-high 91 receptions for 721 yards, and his 2,028 yards from scrimmage led the NFL.

For his work as defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, Vic Fangio got the head coaching gig in Denver. He also won The Associated Press 2018 NFL Assistant Coach of the Year Award on Saturday.

Philadelphia Eagles DE Chris Long won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for community service.

"I don't know, I'm very humbled," Long said. "It's hard to feel deserving with those guys on stage and, obviously, this guy right here on the statue. It's a very heavy statue and it makes sense because his legacy is immense. I'm just honored."

 

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