Sponsor Content: NFL's top stars to be honored at awards show on NBC
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The NFL will crown a champion on Sunday, but there will be plenty of winners the night before. On Saturday, the league will hand out a slew of individual awards live on NBC during the fourth annual NFL Honors show, hosted by Seth Meyers. With some of the biggest names in the NFL walking the red carpet, the NFL Honors will have plenty of star wattage -- and that includes JJ Watt.
Awards will include the AP Most Valuable Player, which is hotly contested this year thanks to standout seasons from players like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Colts QB Andrew Luck, plus Texans star Watt.
While honoring the season’s best player, the NFL Honors show will also reveal the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. This year’s finalists include former stars like Kurt Warner, Orlando Pace and the late Junior Seau, plus Super Bowl-winning coaches like Tony Dungy and Jimmy Johnson.
Here’s a closer look at the awards up for grabs on Saturday night.
The MVP award usually goes to an offensive player, but Watt, a defensive end, could become the first defender to take MVP honors since former Giants star Lawrence Taylor in 1986. Watt faces stiff competition from Rodgers, who played through a leg injury to lead Green Bay to the NFC North title in a thrilling Week 17 win over the Detroit Lions. Other MVP contenders include Cowboys QB Tony Romo, who led Dallas to the NFC East title with his best statistical season ever, and Patriots QB Tom Brady, who rebounded from a slow start to take New England to the top of the AFC.
Giants rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. may have sewn up the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award, despite missing the first four games of the season, thanks to an electrifying string of games punctuated by his gravity-defying catch versus Dallas in Week 12. But the AP Offensive Player of the Year award, presented by Microsoft Surface, is very much up in the air. Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray ran away with the rushing title this year but faces a stiff challenge from players like the Colts' Luck, who led the league in touchdown passes, and Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who led the league in receptions and receiving yards.
Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, Presented by Nationwide
One of the most prestigious service awards in sports, the Man of the Year Award is named after legendary Bears running back Walter Payton. Each team nominates one of their own players for the award, which is based on performance on the field and community service off the field. Last year, the honor went to Bears defensive back Charles Tillman, whose Cornerstone Foundation is dedicated to helping children and their families in the greater Chicago area.
The three finalists for the Walter Payton Award this year are 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, and the Packers’ Rodgers. Boldin’s Q81 Foundation provides summer enrichment programs and scholarships for students, as well as support for Oxfam America’s trips to countries like Ethiopia and Senegal.
Davis founded his Defending Dreams Foundation in 2007, and since then has helped more than 2,000 children and provided more than $500,000 in aid for struggling families. The foundation also runs an annual youth leadership academy, and sponsors multiple fundraisers and football camps throughout the year.
Rodgers has worked extensively with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and has helped raise money and awareness for childhood cancer research. His website, itsaaron.com, is a platform for organizations and individuals who are dedicated to social change to spread their message.
Each Walter Payton Award nominee receives a $1,000 charitable donation, while the three finalists receive $5,000 and the winner an additional $20,000 to the charity of his choice. The winner will be picked by a panel of NFL executives, players and writers.
NFL Sportsmanship Award, Presented by Bose
A new addition to the league honors, the Sportsmanship Award will honor the player who best exemplifies leadership and fair play on the field. Unlike the other awards, this one is solely decided by NFL players. A panel comprised of former NFL stars Warrick Dunn, Leonard Wheeler, Curtis Martin and Karl Mecklenburg put together a list of eight finalists, who all appeared on the Pro Bowl ballot given to current NFL players. Current players were then able to vote for the player they most respected and admired.
The eight finalists this year are all league veterans, including Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. The winner will receive a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice, all based on the respect of his peers on the field.
Watch the NFL Honors Awards Show on Saturday Jan. 31 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, and check out red carpet coverage beginning at 8 p.m. on NFL Network.