Matthew Stafford Wins the ESPYs Comeback Athlete of the Year Award

Joye PruittSenior Analyst IJuly 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 11:  Matthew Stafford of the Detriot Lions wins award Best Comeback Athlete poses in the press room during the 2012 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 11, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Obviously the ESPYs took notice to how amazing Matthew Stafford’s season was, even though the rest of the football world refused to do the same.

Any quarterback not named Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers is rarely recognized as a man with any viable influence over the league, no matter how shallow-hearted it may be.

Even Cam Newton got more respect and shine for his rookie performance that landed the Carolina Panthers far away from the NFL Playoffs. Stafford led the Detroit Lions to a Wild Card postseason game against the New Orleans Saints, though they subsequently lost.

Stafford and the Detroit Lions, who rattled the league with their undefeated preseason record, were still not as highly respected as they should have been, while the San Francisco 49ers, division rivals, garnered most of the attention.

It’s apparent the ESPYs recognized, however, the strides Stafford made in a single season by naming him the Best Comeback Athlete for his 5,038 passing yards and 41 touchdowns.

It’s well-deserved. Stafford’s 2010 NFL season was toxic. It wasn’t his attitude that plagued the locker room, however, it was his injury-prone body that forced the Lions to use two other Lions quarterbacks in his place.

That porcelain-doll physicality was not going to cut it for Detroit, a city that had been exposed to how amazing a football team the Lions could truly be with the right man under center. The preseason was heavily overlooked, simply because it was the preseason.

Excuses that it did not really count towards anything were abundant, and technically the haters were correct. A perfect preseason record didn’t exactly land the Lions in the Super Bowl, or even allow them to win their division.

Yet, there was something Detroit fans saw in the Lions that no one had seen in them prior. Fans saw heart and ambition.

In front of our eyes was a team that could actually make viable strides in the NFC with the help of a healthy Matthew Stafford. A healthy Stafford is what Detroit begged for.

In return, Stafford started 16 regular season games and a wild card game against the New Orleans Saints.

This was the same Lions team that had a Stafford that only played in three games and tallied 535 passing yards, due to injury of course.

Calvin Johnson’s receiving yards in the 2010 season were 561 less than his receiving yards in the 2011 season with Stafford putting the ball in the air consistently.

Johnson’s amazing catches in traffic had a lot to do with his size and strength. It also had a fraction to do with the manner in which the ball was thrown and in substantially tight windows.

Stafford’s transition from sideline bum to franchise quarterback has been a sight to see and he deserved every inch of the Best Comeback Athlete award he was given.