MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For the third time, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is the NFL’s most valuable player.
Now he goes for his sixth Super Bowl title, and perhaps with it a fifth MVP trophy for the NFL championship.
Brady added The Associated Press 2017 NFL MVP Award Saturday night at NFL Honors to his victories in 2007 and 2010. He was joined as an honoree by three Los Angeles Rams: Coach of the year Sean McVay, offensive player of the year running back Todd Gurley and defensive player of the year tackle Aaron Donald.
Other winners in voting by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league were Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen as comeback player; New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara and cornerback Marshon Lattimore as top offensive and defensive rookies, respectively; and former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, now head coach of the New York Giants, as assistant coach of the year.
Brady is the second player in the four major professional sports to win MVP at age 40. Barry Bonds won baseball’s award in 2004.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman, who missed the season because of a knee injury, accepted the award for Brady.
“Thanks, thanks. Wait up. I literally just found out I was doing this like 20 minutes ago. So, I’ve got to read the text,” Edelman said.
“No, but I’m joking. But serious, Tom said he wanted to say he’s very honored and humbled that he gets this award for MVP. Also, he wanted to thank his teammates, his friends, his family and the Patriots organization for going out and doing what they do.”
Brady competed 385 of 581 passes (66.2 percent) for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns with eight interceptions as New England went 13-3 for the AFC’s best record. At an age when many QBs are deep into retirement, Brady is throwing deep — and short — as well as ever.
Donald was the first pure defensive tackle to win the award since Warren Sapp in 1999. He said it means “everything. That’s one of the best to ever do it. So, even for my name to be next to that guy’s name is beyond a blessing. This is what you dream about as a kid, dreaming about playing in the NFL to have success like this, to be able to (play good enough) to win this trophy.”
Gurley’s sensational turnaround season, in which he ran for 13 touchdowns and caught six TD passes, sparked an equally impressive reversal of fortunes by the Rams, who won the NFC West at 11-5.
“The Saints got the rookies and we took home the offensive and defensive” player awards,” Gurley noted. “It just tells you the type of players we have on the team. We all help each other out, absolutely. We have some talent, but we’re nothing without the whole nine yards and everybody together. And we also have a coach who’s up for Coach of the Year.”
A little while later, McVay was handed the coaching award.
In his first season running a team and as the youngest head coach in NFL history, McVay led the Rams to a seven-game improvement. McVay, who turned 32 on Jan. 24, ran away with the voting with 35 votes to 11 for Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer.
“What it means is we had a good season that I think we can build on,” McVay said. “But you have to earn it every single day. It’s a very humbling league.”
The Rams’ hat trick of awards was not unprecedented. In 2003, Baltimore’s Ray Lewis was top defensive player, Jamal Lewis won best offensive player and Terrell Suggs was defensive rookie of the year. And in 1999, the St. Louis Rams had three award winners: Kurt Warner (MVP), Marshall Faulk (offensive player) and Dick Vermeil (coach).
New Orleans’ sweep of the rookie awards was the first since 1967, when Detroit running back Mel Farr and cornerback Lem Barney were honored. That was the first season for the top defensive rookie award.
“You get caught up in the season, you don’t really get time to pat yourself on the back,” Kamara said. “But when the season is over you realize what you’ve done. I’ve kind of had to time to look back and say, I made some history this season.”
Kamara shared duties with veteran Mark Ingram as the Saints won the NFC South. He rushed for 728 yards with a 6.1-yard average, and scored eight times. He also caught 81 passes for 826 yards, with five touchdowns.
The 11th overall draft pick and first from his position selected, Lattimore was a shutdown defender as the Saints went 11-5. He had five interceptions and 18 passes defensed in 13 games, was a sure tackler and, by midseason, was someone opposing quarterbacks tended to avoid. He missed three games, one because of a concussion and two because of an ankle injury.
Allen returned from two devastating injuries to win the comeback honor. He missed half of the 2015 season with a kidney issue, then was lost in the 2016 season opener because of a torn right ACL. There were questions if Allen would play at a high level again.
He answered those emphatically with the best year of his career. Allen caught 102 passes for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns. He was targeted 159 times, nearly 10 per game.
The awards were announced Saturday night at NFL Honors, with Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt receiving the league’s Walter Payton Award as man of the year.
Watt, in his seventh NFL season and a three-time defensive player of the year, had the goal of raising $200,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief in Houston. His fundraising did a lot more, bringing in $37 million in 19 days.
“I’ve been fortunate to be on this stage and to win defensive player of the year awards, but everything that you do on the field pales in comparison to what you do off the field,” Watt said.
“And at the end of my life, if I’m remembered as a football player and a good football player and that’s all I’m remembered for, then I did a poor job in my life. When I go to my grave I want to be remembered as a guy who helped people out and who tried to do as much as he could off the field to be the best man he could be. I’m trying to make my family proud and my fans proud, and go out there and just be the best person I can be and leave the world a little bit better.”