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My 2012 AFL Award Winners

Andy Lopusnak
Friday July 27, 2012

With the AFL's 25th regular season in the books, it's time to honor the best of the best from 2012. Here's my take on who should receive the league's top honors.
The AFL has added a new Player of the Year award this season for the best defensive back. Now there are ten different player of the year awards, two for coaches and one for the top executive. Last year, the league broke up the lineman award to go to offense and defense.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Tommy Grady, Utah Blaze quarterback
Grady had the greatest passing season in AFL history. He became the first player to break league single-season marks in attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns in the same season. Grady not only broke these records, he obliterated them. Grady had perhaps the greatest season in pro football history by a quarterback. This award goes to the league's Most Valuable Player and without a doubt Tommy Grady was the best in the league this year and by far the MVP. The league has a love affair with San Antonio's Aaron Garcia and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets award.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tommy Grady, Utah Blaze quarterback
See above. He produced the most offensive yards (5,932) and offensive touchdowns (149) of any player (both new AFL records). Grady was named the AFL Offensive Player of the Week a league-high three times and named MVP of the Week twice (Philly's Derrick Ross was the only other player to be named twice).
Despite not playing in the season opener, Sykes broke the AFL record for sacks in a single season with 16.0. Additionally, he led the league with 18.0 tackles for loss, forced five fumbles, recovered four fumbles, returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown and returned a blocked field goal for a score. Sykes helped the SaberCats set a new AFL record for sacks (42) in a single season.
See above. Sykes was the only lineman to be named Defensive Player of the Week multiple times in the AFL this season.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Scooter Berry, Jacksonville DL
There were six stellar candidates for Rookie of the Year - three on each side of the ball. Arizona DB Arkeith Brown who posted ten interceptions (2 for TD), 83.5 tackles and 21 breakups in 15 games played. New Orleans DB Jeremy Kellem led the VooDoo with 95.5 tackles and 21 breakups to go along with his nine interceptions (1 for TD). Jacksonville lineman Scooter Berry posted 13.0 sacks (second most in the AFL) tying him with Craig Walls (1987) for the most ever by a rookie. He also had 30.0 tackles, three fumble recoveries (1 for TD), five forced fumbles and two blocked kicks.
On offense there was Tampa Bay's Prechae Rodriguez (125-1,653-32 in 17 games), Chicago's Jared Perry (133-1,811-31 with two rushing TDs in 18 games) and Utah's Tysson Poots (108-1,167-30 in 11 games). Poots had the advantage of being on the league's most explosive passing attack and the same QB the entire time, but averaged little more than 10 yards per catch while the other two were both over 13 yards per reception. Both Perry and Rodriguez dealt with multiple QBs and both missed the playoffs. Poots was just stellar when the season matters near the end. He had 102 catches for 1,077 yards with 29 scores in the last nine games of the year. He was 6-90-1 in the first two games of the year before an injury sidelined him for the next seven contests. No other receiver, rookie or veteran, had more catches and yards in the last nine games of the year. Only Iowa's Jesse Schmidt had more TD grabs (30) during this timeframe.
If the league did an offensive and defensive ROY award, then I'd go for Poots on offense and Berry on defense. However, since there's just one award, I have to go with Berry since he tied a rookie record and no one else did that. Berry will no doubt be All-Arena First Team. That's something that none of the offensive rookies will achieve. 
KICKER OF THE YEAR: Kenny Spencer, Spokane Shock kicker
Spokane's Kenny Spencer led the AFL in touchbacks (49), which forced opposing offense's to start from the worst field position in the league (their own 7-yard line). In addition, Spencer led the AFL in extra point percentage and was a perfect four-for-four in field goals under 50 yards. He made an AFL-record 138 extra points on the seasons and led the league connecting on 94.5% of his PATs (he missed just eight of his 146 attempted).
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE YEAR: Brennen Carvalho, Philadelphia Soul center
Carvalho didn't record a tackle or catch a pass, but he anchored the best offensive line in the AFL that allowed a league-low five sacks with only four of those were against starter Dan Raudabaugh. Carvalho's lone sack he gave up came in the second quarter of the 56-38 win over Jacksonville when he stepped Raudabaugh's foot after the exchange. Raudabaugh fell and was touched down. Five plays later, the Soul scored a touchdown.
RECEIVER OF THE YEAR: Tiger Jones, Philadelphia Soul WR
I'm sure the AFL will give this to Iowa's Jesse Schmidt, who played on a terrible Barnstormers team and was pretty much the only option for J.J. Raterink. Stats are great and Schmidt had an amazing season statistically leading the AFL in receptions, yards and TDs, but his team sucked. For some reason, this league is in love with players that are from crappy teams (see P.J. Berry, Marcus Everett and Schmidt). That's why my WR of the Year is Philadelphia's Tiger Jones, who was plucked away from the AFL with two games remaining by the Philadelphia Eagles. Jones averaged 15.1 yards per catch (Schmidt was at 12.9). He caught 133 balls for 2010 yards with 47 scores. Jones became the first player in AFL history to record back-to-back 2,000-yard receiving seasons.
DEFENSIVE BACK OF THE YEAR: Kent Richardson, Philadelphia Soul DB
This is a new award in 2012. Philadelphia's Kent Richardson led all DBs in interception (14) and returned two for touchdowns. Ten of his interceptions came against teams with winning records (San Jose, Jacksonville and Spokane). He also had 80.5 tackles, 15 preak ups, three fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles.
IRONMAN OF THE YEAR: Huey Whittaker, San Jose WR/LB
Since the AFL re-launched in 2010, this award has been a joke. Its last two winners were two of the worst Ironmen to win it (read all about it here). It's quite fitting that the corporate partner for this award has the name "small" in its name, because that's what this award is - small and insignificant.
Last year, the league bastardized the award by giving it to a non-Ironman (New Orleans WR/KR P.J. Berry), who didn't play defense. Berry will likely be up for the award again and yet again, he's not even eligible by the league's own definition of ironman in its rulebook. He led the league in all-purpose yards with 196.5 per game (not even close to the top 15 all-time) setting the league record in kickoff returns (because the Power was a measly 5-13) but wasn't even close to the kickoff return yardage mark. If Berry has a superman type season like Steve Papin did on a year-to-year basis, then I could almost accept Berry as an ironman, but he'll never come close to the amazing all-purpose mastery that Papin did in his career.
As for true two-way talent, there's not much. Milwaukee WR/DB Marcus Everett and San Jose WR/LB Huey Whittaker are the tops among the remainder. Everett didn't record any offense in ten of his 17 games and caught just 20 balls for 224 yards with seven TDs. Defensively, he had nine interceptions (two returned for TDs), but was in on just 16.5 tackles and aside from one game which he had 2.5 stops, never had more than 1.5 in any game. Everett added two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Aside from the interceptions (on a 5-13 Mustangs team), Everett's numbers were not even close to what Whittaker put up. The former South Florida Bulls standout (shameless alma mater plug), had 69 catches for 828 yards with 17 scores. He also added four rushing touchdowns and converted four two-point conversions. Defensively, he had 26.0 stops, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries (one returned for a TD) in just 12 games played.
HEAD COACH OF THE YEAR: Doug Plank, Philadelphia Soul
The AFL Coach of the Year hasn't been good luck for a decade as the winner hasn't gone on to win the ArenaBowl since Darren Arbet did it in 2002. Therefore, I don't think any coach wants to get this kiss of death.
In his first season back in the AFL since 2008, Plank led the Soul to the league's best regular season record and shattered numerous offensive and defensive records. Philadelphia led the league in scoring and its 68.2 points per game is the highest in league history. More records included forcing 64 takeaways and recovering 30 fumbles.
Plank won the award in 2005 and 2007 with the Georgia Force and came away empty handed in the ring department losing ArenaBowl XIX and then was bounced out in the 2007 National Conference championship game to a 7-9 team (Columbus). If he gets the award this time, he will be the first three-time AFL Coach of the Year.  
San Antonio's Lee Johnson should get some serious consideration. His defense was the second best in the AFL to Philadelphia leading the Talons to the best record in the National Conference. If history is any indication, the winner of this award won't win the ArenaBowl anyway as only five of the previous ArenaBowl champions had their head coach win this award (1987, 1991, 1999, 2001 and 2002).
ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR: Matt Sauk, Utah Blaze Asst. Coach/Off. Coordinator
The AFL gave Sauk this award last year. This season, his offensive unit was even better led by the record-breaking Tommy Grady. I have a sneaking suspicion that the league will give this to Soul OC Clint Dolezel, but a lot of credit for Philadelphia's success is from its defense, led by Plank, while Utah's defense allowed the third most points on the season. Sauk's offensive mastery of the Arena game led the Blaze to victory in spite of the team's defensive woes. He wasn't afraid of fourth down and it paid off a league-high 66.7% (presumably a new league record).
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Tom Goodhines, Philadelphia Soul General Manager
After a terrible 6-12 season in 2011, the former ArenaFan writer went out to transform the Soul back into an ArenaBowl contender. He brought in Doug Plank as head coach and Clint Dolezel as assistant head coach. The combination of the great offensive mind of Dolezel and defensive wizardry of Plank led Philadelphia to the best record in the league this season. Philadelphia set an AFL record with 1,228 points scored and wrapped up the best record in the American Conference six weeks before the season ended.
My All-Arena team is a bit different from the league's version as they lump all offensive linemen (aside from the center) as a whole and the same with the defensive linemen. This All-Arena team specifies a tight end as well as a nose tackle. I hope the league will start doing this in the future. If you honor a mack and jack linebacker, then you should do the same thing for the tight end and nose tackle positions.
Tommy Grady, Utah
Aaron Garcia, San Antonio
Derrick Ross, Philadelphia
Odie Armstrong, Arizona
Tiger Jones, Philadelphia
Maurice Purify, Arizona
Jesse Schmidt, Iowa
Reggie Gray, Chicago
Aaron Lesue, Utah
Josh Bush, New Orleans
Mark Lewis, San Jose
Tom Kaleita, Tampa Bay
Brennen Carvalho, Philadelphia
Kyle Young, Arizona
John Booker, Arizona
Christian Johnson, Philadelphia
Kent Richardson, Philadelphia
Fred Shaw, San Antonio
Arkeith Brown, Arizona
Jeremy Kellem, New Orleans
Rayshaun Kizer, Philadelphia
Tracy Belton, Georgia
Alvin Ray Jackson, New Orleans
Kelvin Morris, Chicago
Victor DeGrate, San Antonio
Cliff Dukes, Arizona
Joe Sykes, San Jose
Mike Lewis, Utah
Tim McGill, San Jose
Aaron Robbins, Jacksonville
Scooter Berry, Jacksonville
Bryan Robinson, Philadelphia
Kenny Spencer, Spokane
Chris Gould, Arizona
Terrance Sanders, Spokane
C.J. Johnson, Georgia
Agree? Disagree? Please post your comments with detailed reasons why you'd chose someone else for an award on the ArenaFan message board. 

Andy Lopusnak is an 11-year AFL front office veteran, spending time with the Tampa Bay Storm, San Diego Riptide and Grand Rapids Rampage. He works as a statistician for NFL and college sports for CBS Sports and is a freelance photographer. Lopusnak received two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of South Florida and has been a fan of ArenaBall since its inception.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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