MVP Newton, Watt, Rivera, Berry big winners of NFL awards
SAN FRANCISCO — Cam Newton is now a Super Bowl quarterback with an MVP award.
Offensive Player of the Year, too.
And his coach, Ron Rivera, owns a second NFL honor as well.
Newton, the Carolina Panthers star, won The Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year awards Saturday night.
"It means so much, but not just for myself," Newton said in a video acceptance speech for the MVP award. "To be the first person in Panthers history to win it — that's what I'm most proud about. I've received a lot of awards, but to be able to get this organization here, I'm really proud. We didn't get in this position by happenstance. It took years of hard work and dedication, and now we are reaping the benefits."
Newton was not on hand at NFL Honors because he is kind of busy preparing for a little game on Sunday against Denver. But just as he has for much of the week — for most of the season, really — Newton still was a dominant figure.
His father, mother and two brothers accepted the Offensive Player award.
"Cam took an unconventional journey to get here and we're just so proud of what has happened, my family and I," said Newton's father Cecil. "So many thanks go out to so many people, from Pop Warner to the Panthers. I don't have time to tell you all, 'Thank you.' You know who you are. We know who you are."
Newton was a landslide choice for MVP with 48 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who regularly cover the NFL. Fellow QBs Tom Brady and Carson Palmer each received one vote.
Newton earned 18 votes for top offensive player. Steelers receiver Antonio Brown was next with 10.
The All-Pro quarterback set an NFL mark for the position with 45 touchdowns this season: 35 passing and 10 rushing. He also ranked sixth in passer rating (99.4), while throwing for 3,837 yards. His 636 yards on the ground easily led all QBs, and the 10 touchdowns rushing were more than All-Pro running back Doug Martin of Tampa Bay scored.
Rivera led the Panthers to an unprecedented third straight NFC South title and two playoff victories. In a season featuring several outstanding coaching jobs, Rivera easily outdistanced the field. He received 36 1/2 votes, far in front of Kansas City's Andy Reid with six votes.
Rivera also won the award two years ago. He dedicated this one to his late brother, Mickey, who died recently.
"It's a tremendous award for the organization," Rivera said. "It validates everything that we've done. And again, our success always starts at the top. I really do appreciate our owner, Mr. (Jerry) Richardson, for believing in me and giving me my opportunity. Dave Gettleman and Marty Hurney — the two general managers I've worked with — I thank them for what they've done. Our coaching staff has been tremendous; our players have been outstanding."
Another outstanding player, Houston end J.J. Watt won his third Defensive Player of the Award in five pro seasons. He also won it in 2012 and last year, when he was a unanimous choice.
This time, in tying Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor as the only players to take the award three times, Watt earned 37 votes.
"It's almost difficult to comprehend because I've only been in the league five years," Watt said. "So to think about where I've come from and where I am now and what lies ahead, those type of things it almost doesn't register because of the greatness of the guys that have come before me. So to even be considered amongst those guys is truly incredible. But I mean that's what the goal is. The goal is to come out here and try to be one of the best ever.
Watt spoke about playing football in the yard with his brothers while growing up in Wisconsin, pretending to be Packers stars Reggie White or Brett Favre.
"There might be kids out there pretending that they're wearing No. 99 is literally one of the coolest things in the entire world," Watt said. "I was a 2-star recruit ... going into college, and now I have three Defensive Player of the Year trophies, so (take that) all you guys who doubted me."
Kansas City safety Eric Berry gave an emotionally charged speech while accepting Comeback Player of the Year. At one point, his eyes welled with tears and he paused before accepting the award.
Berry missed 10 games the previous season battling lymphoma, then returned to the Chiefs to become an All-Pro. His inspirational story and superb performance on the field earned him 38 votes.
"Everybody, just live out your dreams. Don't let anything come in between," Berry said. "I'm truly honored, truly blessed, truly thankful to be standing here before you all. ... It was some tough times. It was some times where I felt like I couldn't do it anymore. ... There was a lot of rough times, a lot of rough nights, a lot of lonely nights."
And now, a rewarding night.
His teammate, cornerback Marcus Peters, took Defensive Rookie of the Year. Peters tied for the league lead with eight interceptions in helping the Chiefs make the playoffs. He received 45 votes.
Rams running back Todd Gurley took Offensive Rookie with 27 votes, well ahead of the 17 for Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston, the first overall pick in last year's draft. Gurley missed the first two games of 2015, then went on a tear that included four straight 100-yard rushing performances: 146, 159, 128 and 133 yards. He finished the season third in league rushing and scored 10 touchdowns.
His voice cracked with emotion as he mentioned coming back from his ACL injury. And at the end of his speech, he referenced the Rams' impending move from St. Louis to Los Angeles.
"I just want to say something to the St. Louis fans: I know you all might be disappointed that we might be leaving but, you know, it's out of our control," Gurley said.
Wade Phillips' work in turning the Denver defense into the stingiest in the NFL got him the Assistant Coach of the Year award. The Broncos ranked first overall and against the pass, third versus the run.
Phillips, who has been a head coach for three franchises and interim for three more, received 16 votes, twice that of Hue Jackson, the Bengals' offensive coordinator in 2015 and now Cleveland's coach.
San Francisco receiver Anquan Boldin received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award for his off-field work.
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