Since the Pro Bowl's pretty much a "Who's the most famous?"contest, I believe that the NFL needs an award to recognize guys who were once thought of as scrubs (if they were even thought of at all) and emerged from obscurity to have a fantastic year.
I call it the Who's This Fellow? Award ... or for short, the WTF? Award. Since the league has thus far rebuffed my attempts to establish the Vinny Testaverde Award, we're taking another shot with this one.
The award is open to veterans, rookies or anyone in between. The only qualification is that before the year started, there must have been no one outside the nominee's immediately family who thought there was even a slight chance that the nominee might've made a positive impact this year.
With that in mind, here are the runners-up, in alphabetical order:
Johnnie Lee Higgins, KR, Oakland Raiders. He's scored four touchdowns this year, two receiving, and two on punt returns, and that makes him the most explosive man on the Raiders roster. Granted, this is like calling someone the most well-mannered goat molester you've ever met, but still, it's something.
Shaun Hill, QB, San Francisco 49ers. He's 28 years old and went undrafted in the 2002 draft. He spent a little time with the Amsterdam Admirals until he caught on with the 49ers in 2005, where he took the first two snaps of his career in relief of the legendary Mr. Spergon Wynn. He took a knee both times. And now, here he is, playing in seven games for the 49ers, and racking up a 91.8 QB rating on the way. He went from mopping up for the Sperge to being the man chosen to run the Mike Martz offense.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Denver Broncos. I know a lot of Arkansas fans are out there saying, "I knew he'd be good!", but anyone who says they knew Peyton Hillis would have the best rookie year out of any Arkansas running back is a damn liar. An injury to Ryan Torain (after injuries to 38 other Bronco running backs) opened up the door for Hillis, and he stepped in and did what Bronco running backs do.
Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints. He's been helped by the injury to Marques Colston and the fact that Drew Brees is great, but still, he'll end having eight or more TDs and close to a 1,000-yard season. I don't think anyone saw that coming.
Eddie Royal, WR, Denver Broncos. He was a second-round pick, so expecting a little production from his wasn't crazy, however ... he was the fifth wide receiver taken, and I don't recall hearing a lot of pre- or post-draft buzz about Eddie Royal. Like Moore, he could end up with close to a 1,000-yard season. Most of the Eddie Royal legend was established in Week 1 against the Raiders, when Royal caught the ball, ran the ball, became the bane of DeAngelo Hall's existence, made tackles, invented the forward pass, sewed the Broncos new uniforms and won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
Kevin Walter, WR, Houston Texans. When you put the game's best receiver across from anyone, that guy's going to get some catches. But eight TDs, close to 1,000 yards, and an average of 15.1 yards a catch? That doesn't happen to a lot of seventh round picks out of Eastern Michigan.
And your winner is...
Tyler Thigpen, QB, Kansas City Chiefs. Before taking the reins for the Chiefs this year, Tyler Thigpen was best known for having relations with a skeleton on Deadspin. And now, here he is, walking away with the prestigious WTF Award. Miracles can happen.
Shaun Hill's got better numbers as a quarterback, sure. But he was handed the keys to the Mike Martz offense. Tyler Thigpen has been handed the keys to the Herman Edwards offense. It is slightly less explosive. If the Mike Martz offense is a Porsche, the Herm Edwards offense is an AMC Gremlin with boots on three of the four wheels and six homeless guys living inside.
Tyler Thigpen has not sucked that bad. And what were the odds of any quarterback on the Chiefs roster, be it Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard, or Tyler Thigpen, not sucking this year? I give him the nod because we had seen a tiny bit of him last year, and we expected him to be pathetic. He has not been. He has the Kansas City brass thinking they no longer need to draft a quarterback. That's a significant impact on a franchise.
His 77.6 QB rating isn't blowing anyone away, but it's in the Roethlisberger/Orton/Collins/Flacco range. Not too shabby, Mr. Thigpen. Not too shabby at all.