Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians won Coach of the Year and former Cardinals QB Kurt Warner was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame (he did not make it in), but there was another player for Arizona to head home with an award. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald was named the winner of the inaugural Art Rooney NFL Sportsmanship Award.
Fitzgerald was selected in a vote of his fellow NFL players. He receives a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice and was also presented "The Art Rooney Trophy," which represents the important role that sportsmanship plays in the game and how NFL players that demonstrate integrity and honor on the field serve as role models for other players at all levels.
The award was established this year and was named in honor of the late founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Rooney, Sr. It will be presented each year to an NFL player who demonstrates on the field qualities of great sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for opponents, and integrity in competition.
Each NFL team nominated one player during the season. A panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community selected eight finalists (four in the AFC; four in the NFC). The panel of Legends Coordinators was comprised of Warrick Dunn, Curtis Martin, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler.
The finalists were Fitzgerald, LB Thomas Davis (Carolina), LB Chad Greenway (Minnesota), WR Calvin Johnson (Detroit), S Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh), WR-special teamer Matthew Slater (New England), QB Alex Smith (Kansas City) and DE DeMarcus Ware (Denver).
Fitz embodies every trait of this award. In fact, once his playing days are over, it probably should be named for Fitzgerald. I don't know if there is a more respected and more respectful player in the entire league.