PHOENIX — The NFL gave out its major awards on Thursday, but Damar Hamlin stole the show.
Hamlin gave a heartfelt, emotional speech at the annual NFL Honors, which was held at Symphony Hall inside the Phoenix Convention Center.
The athletic training staffs of the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals were brought on stage along with medical professionals from the University of Cincinnati Health Center, and they were joined on stage by Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills safety. Hamlin collapsed on the field from a cardiac emergency during a Week 17 game against the Bengals.
"Every day I was amazed that my experience could encourage so many others, across the country and even across the world," Hamlin said. "Encouraged to pray, encouraged to spread love and encouraged to keep fighting no matter the circumstances.
"Sudden cardiac arrest was nothing I would have ever chosen to be a part of my story. That’s because sometimes our own visions are too small, even when we think we’re seeing the bigger picture. My vision was about playing in the NFL and being the best player I could be. God’s plan was to have a purpose bigger than any game in this world.
"My entire life, I felt like God was using me to give others hope. Now with a new set of circumstances, I can only say He is doing what He has always done. I have a long journey ahead, a journey full of unknowns and a journey full of milestones. It’s a lot easier to face your fears when you know your purpose."
— NFL (@NFL) February 10, 2023
Hamlin thanked everyone on the stage and everyone who prayed for him and then shared hugs with those on stage with him.
The NFL presents its top awards, including MVP at the end of the show, from the regular season at NFL Honors. Here are the awards:
Offensive Player of the Year: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson
The finalists were Jefferson, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill and Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts. Mahomes ended up winning MVP, but it has become rare for a player to win both MVP and OPOY.
Jefferson was a great choice for the top offensive player. He led the NFL with 128 catches and 1,809 yards. Jefferson is the third receiver in the past four years to win OPOY. Michael Thomas won at the end of the 2019 season, then running back Derrick Henry took the award in 2020 before Cooper Kupp won last year.
"It has been amazing, and I'm going to keep getting better and better," Jefferson said backstage.
The vote didn't end up being all that close. Jefferson got 35 of 50 first-place votes. Mahomes got 10, Hurts got three, Hill got one, and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen got one.
Jefferson later won another trophy for "Moment of the Year" for his incredible, fourth-down catch against the Buffalo Bills.
Defensive Player of the Year: San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Bosa
Bosa didn't lead from wire to wire. Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys was the early favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. But by the end of the season, Bosa had blown past him and everyone else.
Bosa had 18.5 sacks and an absolutely dominant season for the No. 1 defense in the NFL. He adds this trophy to his NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, which he won after being the No. 2 overall pick of the 2019 draft. Bosa missed most of the 2020 season due to a torn ACL but bounced back to become the best defensive player in football in 2022.
"If you stay the course and you believe in yourself and take it one day at a time, there's going to be a light at the end of the tunnel," he said as he accepted the award.
Bosa got 46 of 50 first-place votes. Philadelphia Eagles end Haason Reddick, who finished fourth, got two first-place votes. Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs and Quinnen Williams of the New York Jets got one each.
"To be considered and win it is a dream come true," Bosa said backstage.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: New York Jets WR Garrett Wilson
Brock Purdy of the San Francisco 49ers got in the conversation after the 49ers won all five of his starts late in the season. But it was too late to beat Wilson, who had a remarkable season for the New York Jets after he was the 10th pick of the draft. Wilson had 83 catches for 1,103 yards.
Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker actually had more first-place votes, beating Wilson 19-18, but the AP is making voters select three places, and Wilson had far more second-place votes (19-8).
"This means everything," Wilson said. "This is something nobody can ever take from me."
Defensive Rookie of the Year: New York Jets CB Sauce Gardner
The Jets had a pretty good draft. Garrett Wilson won Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Gardner took the defensive award. Both were top-10 picks in the draft, and a second-round pick, rookie Breece Hall, would've been a candidate for OROY if he hadn't injured his knee.
"It's special," Wilson said about he and Gardner sweeping the rookie of the year awards. "We feel like our best days are ahead of us as an organization."
Gardner had a remarkable season after he was the fourth pick of the draft. He led the NFL with 20 pass breakups and had two interceptions while having stellar coverage against some of the league's top receivers.
Coach of the Year: New York Giants' Brian Daboll
Brian Daboll of the New York Giants had a huge first season as the team's head coach, and it resulted in an NFL Coach of the Year award. Daboll beat Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers for the award. Daboll took the Giants to a 9-7-1 record in the regular season and a playoff victory as well.
Daboll was credited for the progress made by quarterback Daniel Jones in his fourth season. The Giants hadn't won a playoff game since they beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2011 season, but things seem to be looking up for the franchise with Daboll in charge.
"It's a testament to the coaches, players and people in the building," Daboll said. "That's why I'm here because of all those other people."
Eight coaches got a first-place vote. Daboll led the way with 16. Shanahan was second with 12.
Comeback Player of the Year: Seahawks QB Geno Smith
Smith had a surprising season for the Seahawks. Smith, who hadn't started more than three games in a season since 2014, helped the Seahawks to the playoffs. He threw for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns. That's by far the best season of his career at age 32.
MVP: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes got 48 of 50 first-place votes, with Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen each picking up one. It's Mahomes' second career MVP award as he continues to build an impressive resume.
Walter Payton Man of the Year: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
Prescott won the award that recognizes charitable work off the field. According to the Cowboys' site, Prescott's work through his Faith Fight Finish (FFF) Foundation has four initiatives: colon cancer research, mental health and suicide prevention, bridging the gap between law enforcement and the communities they serve and offering assistance to those facing life-challenging hardships.