The future is bright for the Carolina Panthers.
For the second consecutive year, a first-year Panther took home Rookie of the Year honors.
One year after quarterback Cam Newton won Offensive Rookie of the Year, linebacker Luke Kuechly was named the top defensive rookie at the NFL Honors awards program at the Mahalia Jackson Theater in New Orleans.
Kuechly, who led the league with 164 tackles, won by a pretty comfortable margin over Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner and Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward. The former Boston College standout received 28 of a possible 50-first place votes, while Wagner earned 11 and Hayward gathered six.
Kuechly credits the switch to middle linebacker as the major reason for his success this year. The ninth overall pick started the season on the weak side, but moved to the middle after Jon Beason was injured.
“I was like, ‘All right, this feels better. This feels more comfortable,’ ” Kuechly said (according to the Charlotte Observer). “I knew that I had to learn, learn, learn. I didn’t take a whole lot of reps at the Mike. So that (bye) week after the Seattle game, I could relax, sit down and be like, ‘All right, look, it’s middle linebacker like I’ve always done.’ I just went from there.”
Other Notable Awards
Most Valuable Player: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts
Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
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