NFL Honors 2021: Award Winners, Voting Results and Twitter Reaction

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIFebruary 7, 2021

Tennessee Titians running back Derrick Henry poses with his Offensive Player of the Year and his FedEx Ground Player of the Year awards during the NFL Honors ceremony as part of Super Bowl 55 Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Hours before the NFL crowns its 2020 Super Bowl Champion in Tampa Bay, the attention of the league turned to SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, California, where the 2020 NFL Honors were hosted by Steve Harvey in front of no fans and minimal spectators. 

But the show still had plenty of star power. 

Among the football stars honored on Saturday night, Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Russell Wilson took home the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and Aaron Rodgers collected his third MVP trophy while apparently planning a wedding. 

Here's all the news and highlights from the NFL Honors 2021.

2020 NFL Honors Winners

Associated Press Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Sixth player ever to win 3+ MVPs. Aaron Rodgers reminded everyone he's one of the best to ever do it 🏆 https://t.co/ynldqWRsmj

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Aaron Rodgers wins his 3rd career MVP. He's 1 of 6 players in NFL history to win the award at least 3 times. A Packers player has won the award 9 times, 4 more than any other team (49ers, Colts). Rodgers is 1 of 5 players in NFL history to win an MVP at age 37 or older. https://t.co/XouHTDuJhs

Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks 


.@Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year! (by @nationwide) #NFLHonors https://t.co/phjBRmIQFD

Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020: Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, Tom Flores, Drew Pearson, Alan Faneca, Bill Nunn, John Lynch, Peyton Manning

AP Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans @Titans

The best offensive player in the @NFL 😘 📸: AP/Charlie Riedel https://t.co/Z768F31Pbu


2King. Offensive Player of the Year. #NFLHonors | @KingHenry_2 https://t.co/bCE0l97dps

AP Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Field Yates @FieldYates

Aaron Donald’s career by year: 2014: Pro Bowl, DROY 2015: Pro Bowl, 1st team All Pro 2016: Pro Bowl, 1st team All Pro 2017: Pro Bowl, 1st team All Pro, DPOY 2018: Pro Bowl, 1st team All Pro, DPOY 2019: Pro Bowl, 1st team All Pro 2020: Pro Bowl, 1st team All Pro, DPOY Absurd.

FedEx Air Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

FedEx Ground Player of the Year: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers 

Los Angeles Chargers @Chargers

we made this for you @OldTakesExposed https://t.co/KlTtQudQPL

Josh Dubow @JoshDubowAP

Justin Herbert got 41 of the 50 votes for AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. Justin Jefferson got the other 9 votes

AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Chase Young, DE, Washington Football Team

Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, New Orleans Saints

DraftKings Daily Fantasy Player of the Year: Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills 

AP Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Smith, QB, Washington Football Team

Washington Football Team @WashingtonNFL

Remarkable. Fearless. Alex Smith. 📺: #NFLHonors on CBS https://t.co/FaFkAnmnkl


One of the greatest comeback stories in sports history. As told by Joe Theismann. #NFLHonors | @Theismann7 https://t.co/IJJfcTAJRZ

AP Coach of the Year: Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns

AP Assistant Coach of the Year: Brian Daboll, Offensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bulls

Bridgestone Clutch Performance Play of the Year: Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins for the "Hail Murray," when the Arizona Cardinals QB tossed a Hail Mary touchdown to Hopkins with one second left on the clock to defeat the Buffalo Bills


The Hail Murray is the 2020 @Bridgestone Clutch Performance Play of the Year! #NFLHonors @K1 @DeAndreHopkins https://t.co/T5NoRsOdDh

Deacon Jones Award: T.J. Watt, DE, Pittsburgh Steelers 

Full voting results available via the Associated Press


Associated Press Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Only Aaron Rodgers could win an MVP award and have that become the second-most newsworthy item of his night. 

The quarterback, who passed for 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns with five interceptions this past season, stunned viewers by casually announcing his engagement during his acceptance speech. 


MVP #3 for @AaronRodgers12 🏆🏆🏆 #NFLHonors @Packers https://t.co/RU48Yh16Bc

Jahmai Webster @WebsterOnTV

Aaron Rodgers just casually dropping he got engaged (to Shailene Woodley no less) in his MVP speech is equivalent to what we call in the TV business is “burying the lead”. But really congratulations! https://t.co/KEf4DrLGRF

Nora Princiotti @NoraPrinciotti


Rodgers has now won MVP three times in his career, and he may not be done collecting hardware anytime soon. The Packers remain as much of a threat to win the Super Bowl as ever with Rodgers under center. They came one win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from appearing in Sunday's championship game. 

Instead, he'll look to improve upon one of his best seasons yet and deliver another title to Green Bay next season.

Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks 

Russell Wilson has already led the league in passing touchdowns (2017), been named a Pro Bowler eight times and won a Super Bowl in 2012. On Saturday, he joined an even more exclusive club, becoming the latest star to win the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, honoring his efforts both on the field and in the community. 

Here's how the Seahawks described his work throughout the season:

"Wilson, who was also nominated in 2014, is just the fourth player in franchise history to be nominated for the award multiple times, joining Jon Kitna, Eugene Robinson and Mike Tice. All 32 Man of the Year nominees receive a $40,000 donation in their name to the charity of their choice, and winner receives a $250,000 donation to their charity of choice. The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner will be announced on NFL Honors during the week of Super Bowl LV.

"Wilson and his wife, Ciara, have been giving back in numerous ways over the years, first and foremost through their Why Not You Foundation, which was established to empower change in the world, one individual at a time. Since it launched in 2014, the Why Not You Foundation, in partnership with Safeway and Albertsons, has donated over $9 million to Strong Against Cancer to fund life-saving immunotherapy treatment. Additionally, over $1 million has been raised for Friends of the Children, a nationwide organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of generational poverty. And dating back to his rookie season, Wilson has made weekly visits to kids at Seattle Children's Hospital, though this year those visits have been virtual due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."

Only five active NFL players have won the award, including Wilson. 

He'll get to show off that accomplishment for the rest of his career with a patch on his jersey signifying his excellence. It's an award well-earned.

AP Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

This may have been one of the easier selections of the night, and hardly anyone seemed surprised. 

Henry's 2,027 rushing yards made him just the eighth member of the 2,000-yard club along with Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, O.J. Simpson, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis, Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson

Maybe it's no coincidence two of the last three tailbacks to eclipse that mark played for the Tennessee Titans. 

"Two thousand yards is always on a running back's mind," Henry told the AP. "Especially in the league because it is so unique. As far as me, as long as I train hard and work hard in the offseason, and then when I come in for training camp and do what I need to do to be ready to prepare for the season, everything would take care of itself. Always put the team goals first, then individual goals come second."

Henry earned 32 of 50 possible votes with Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes tied for second with five votes each.

AP Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Aaron Donald's victory proved to be one of the more controversial wins of the night.

Donald earned 27 of the 50 available votes, and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt finished second with 20. That led to a fierce debate on social media over who truly deserved the award.

Jalen Ramsey @jalenramsey

Lol ikno people not really questioning if AD should have won DPOY 😂😂.. Yoo that’s insane. It’s some ELITE defensive players in this league for sure & if 99 wasn’t in the league, I would hear it, but he really the greatest. Keep on tho, y’all about to get y’all Oline hurt fr 🤣

TJ Watt @_TJWatt


Here's how their numbers stack up.

Aaron Donald: 16 games, 45 combined tackles, 13.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 pass deflection, 1 fumble recovery

T.J. Watt: 15 games, 53 combined tackles, 15 sacks, 7 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception

Fans will want to keep those numbers in mind when next season begins. Watt certainly won't be forgetting them anytime soon.


AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

Herbert nearly single-handedly elevated the Chargers offense with 4,336 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 15 games.

The Oregon Ducks product immediately thanked his offensive line and said the award speaks volumes about how the Chargers played as a team.

Herbert had plenty of stiff competition for this year's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson and Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Chase Claypool.

The Chargers are in prime position to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs in the next few years at the rate Herbert keeps developing. In the meantime, the team will take a moment to celebrate the ascendance of its franchise QB.

AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Chase Young, DE, Washington Football Team

Make it back-to-back Ohio State alums to claim DPOY.

One year after Nick Bosa won the award, the 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young earned it for himself with 44 combined tackles, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

"It wasn't the rookie season I expected with the pandemic going on," Young said. “I want to thank my teammates just for the support all year and always staying on me and holding me accountable. I believe that's what helped me throughout the whole season."

Whatever it was that made him the best defensive rookie in a class loaded with talent, Washington will gladly take more of it for years to come.

AP Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Smith, QB, Washington Football Team

Smith collected 49 of 50 votes for an award that might as well be named after the quarterback going forward.

The Washington veteran suffered a devastating leg injury after being sacked by Houston Texans star J.J. Watt in 2018. Smith suffered a spiral and compound fracture in his tibia and fibula that led to him fighting for his life. It took 17 surgeries and a year of rehab before Smith made his way back onto the field.

Once he did, it was like he never left.

The three-time Pro Bowler returned to the field in 2021 and passed for 1,582 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions in eight games.

But Smith's story is less about his stats and more about his strength. The quarterback was determined to make it back to the NFL and not let his injury end his career.

He did all that and more, truly earning Comeback Player of the Year honors.