Past 10 Comeback Players of the Year
One of the best defensive tackles in football, Young saw his 1998 season come to a frightening end when he broke his tibia and fibula during a collision with Ken Norton, Jr. Young worked his way back from the potentially career-threatening injury to start all 16 games in 1999, a season in which he recorded 11 sacks - .5 off his career best.
After a Pro Bowl season in 1998, Johnson missed all of 1999 following major surgery on his right knee, back surgery for a bulging disc and an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee. Johnson bounced back with a career-best 12 sacks in 2000, as he earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in addition to Comeback Player of the Year.
Hearst suffered a severe ankle fracture during a divisional playoff game at Atlanta, and was eventually diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis, the same condition that ended Bo Jackson's football career. Hearst returned to the 49ers two seasons later, and rushed for 1,206 yards, becoming the first player to win Comeback honors twice (he also won in 1995).
After the Falcons released Maddox in 1997, he sold insurance for some time, before attempting a comeback, first in the Arena Football League, and then in the XFL. The MVP of the XFL's only season, Maddox parlayed that success into a contract with the Steelers. He led Pittsburgh to a 10-5-1 record and tossed 20 touchdowns after replacing Kordell Stewart as the team's starter.
After bouncing around and losing his job to the likes of Akili Smith and Gus Frerotte, Jon Kitna took over the starting job in Cincinnati with Carson Palmer waiting in the wings. After a 1-4 start, Kitna rallied the Bengals, throwing an AFC-best 26 touchdowns, and helped lead the second-biggest single-season turnaround in Bengals history, taking them from 2-14 to 8-8.
Splitting time with Doug Flutie, Brees threw for a career-low 2,108 yards and earned a 67.5 rating as the Chargers went 4-12 in 2003, prompting San Diego to trade for Philip Rivers. Brees stormed back in '04, throwing for 3,159 yards, 27 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 104.8, earning his first Pro Bowl selection.
After initially saying he'd sit out the 2005 season following a stroke and partial paralysis, Bruschi played nine games, recording 62 tackles and two sacks for the Super Bowl Champs. Meanwhile, Steve Smith came back from a severely broken leg to capture the triple crown of receiving, leading the league in yards (1,563), receptions (103) and touchdowns (12).
The Jets' quarterback missed most of the 2005 season because of two rotator cuff surgeries. He bounced back in 2006, starting all 16 games for the 10-6 Jets, throwing for 3,352 yards and 17 touchdowns, and locking up a Wild Card spot.
After switching from defensive end to linebacker in 2006, Ellis played well until an Achilles tendon injury ended his season. Ellis didn't return to action until Week 4, but still managed to tie for the club lead in sacks with 12.5, earning him a Pro Bowl selection.
Pennington became only the second player in NFL history to win the award twice (Garrison Hearst won in 1995 and 2001) . A year after getting benched as the Jets starting quarterback, Pennington found a home with the Dolphins and led them to an 11-5 record, a 10-game improvement over their 2007 campaign.