J.J. Watt wins record-tying 3rd Defensive Player of the Year award

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO -- J.J. Watt has won The Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year award for the third time.

It was not a unanimous selection for the Houston Texans defensive end -- as it was last year in a first for the honor -- but it was decisive. In tying Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor as the only players to take the award three times, Watt earned 37 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sportswriters and broadcasters who regularly cover the NFL.

Rams tackle Aaron Donald received seven votes, followed by twoCarolina Panthers,linebacker Luke Kuechly with four and cornerback Josh Norman with two.

Watt's superb fifth pro season for the AFC South champions included a league-high 17 sacks, eight passes defensed, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and general dominance.

"There might be kids out there pretending that they're wearing No. 99, [and that] is literally one of the coolest things in the entire world," Watt said. "I was a two-star recruit ... going into college, and now I have three Defensive Player of the Year trophies, so [take that] all you guys who doubted me."

Watt also took to Twitter to express his gratitude.

Comeback Player of the Year

Kansas City safety Eric Berry, who missed 10 games while battling lymphomathe previous season, returned to the Chiefs to become an All-Pro and now has won The Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

Berry's inspirational story and superb performance on the field earned him 38 votes from the 50-person panel. Berry was a mainstay on a Kansas City defense that sparked a 10-game win streak during the regular season.

"Everybody, just live out your dreams. Don't let anything come in between," Berry said. "I'm truly honored, truly blessed, truly thankful to be standing here before you all. ... It was some tough times. It was some times where I felt like I couldn't do it anymore. ... There was a lot of rough times, a lot of rough nights, a lot of lonely nights."

Berry easily outdistanced Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, who came back from knee surgery to lead the Cardinals to a 13-3 regular season. Palmer received six votes.

All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, who sat out all but one game in 2014 because of a child abuse case, led the NFL in rushing. He finished third.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley, who came off knee surgery in college to rush for 1,106 yards, won The Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Gurley missed the first two games of 2015, then went on a tear that included four straight 100-yard rushing performances, with 146, 159, 128 and 133 yards. He scored 10 touchdowns and finished the season third in the league in rushing.

The first-round draft pick (10th overall) earned 27 votes from the nationwide panel. He beat the No. 1 draft selection, quarterback Jameis Winston of Tampa Bay, who received 17 votes.

Gurley is the fourth Ram to take the award. He joins Hall of Fame RBs Eric Dickerson (1983) and Jerome Bettis (1993) and quarterback Sam Bradford (2010).

Although the Rams are relocating to Los Angeles next season, Gurley had some words for the fans the franchise is leaving behind in Missouri.

"I just want to say something to the St. Louis fans: I know you all might be disappointed that we might be leaving, but you know, it's out of our control," he said.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Kansas City's Marcus Peters is the first cornerback in 17 years to win The Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Peters, a first-round selection (18th overall) out of Washington, was key to the Chiefs' 11-game win streak that helped them to the divisional playoff round. He tied Cincinnati's Reggie Nelson for the NFL lead with eight interceptions. Peters returned two for scores, with one covering 90 yards. He also had a pick in the postseason.

That performance earned Peters 45 of 50 votes. Buffalo CB Ronald Darby was next with four votes, and one ballot went to Jets lineman Leonard Williams.

Oakland's Charles Woodson was the previous cornerback to win the award.

Assistant Coach of the Year

Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has won The Associated Press NFL Assistant Coach of the Year award.

Phillips built a defense that ranked first in the league and is largely responsible for the Broncos' making the Super Bowl. He earned 16 votes from the nationwide panel.

The second winner of the honor -- current Jets coach Todd Bowles won the inaugural award last year while the defensive coordinator for Arizona -- Phillips received twice as many votes as the runner-up, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who is now the head coach of the Browns. Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula got seven votes.

Phillips was previously a head coach in Denver, Buffalo and Dallas and interim coach in New Orleans, Atlanta and Houston.

Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year

San Franciscoreceiver Anquan Boldin received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award for his off-the-field work.

"This award means a lot," Boldin said. "It's definitely an honor for me to be honored in this way. I think it's an award that all of the guys in the NFL relate to, but I think I speak for myself when I speak for the guys that were nominated with me, we don't do it for awards or the accolades. We really do it because we truly believe in what we're doing, and it's in our hearts."

For winning the award, a $55,000 donation will be made in Boldin's name to the charity of his choice.

Boldin is the first 49ers player to win the award. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award

Oakland Raiders safety Charles Woodson became the second recipient of the award, which recognizes the NFL player "who demonstrates the qualities of outstanding sportsmanship on the playing field, including fair play, respect for opponents and integrity in competition."

The inaugural award was won by Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgeraldlast year.

"This is a great honor," Woodson said. "It's always a great honor anytime you get voted for anything where your peers vote for it.

"I think what it speaks to is the way that I played the game each time that I went out there on the field. I just tried to give it everything I had every time I stepped on the field. I know that other players respect that, and they know that. It didn't matter if it was my first year or my 18th year -- that's the way I tried to play the game. I did that my whole life, so I think that's what this award is about."

The award is the final honor for Woodson, a likely future Hall of Famer, who announced his retirement earlier this season.

A donation of $25,000 from the NFL Foundation will be made to the charity of Woodson's choice.

Information from ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez andThe Associated Press was used in this report.