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Andy’s 2013 AFL Award Winners

Andy Lopusnak
Wednesday July 31, 2013


The AFL’s 26th regular season is in the books and it’s time to give out some hardware. Once again, the Western Division was dominate on the field with the league’s top three teams in terms of wins coming from out west. With no surprise, the league award winners should be coming from this division. In fact, all but one player award in my fictitious ballot comes from the Western Division and all player & coaching awards are kept in the National Conference. Of course, the AFL will be like little league and opt to give the awards to more than just the truly worthy teams that deserve these awards.
 
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Clevan Thomas, San Jose DB
The AFL Hall of Famer led the league in interceptions (15, tied with Arizona’s Virgil Gray), interception return yards (334), interceptions returned for touchdowns (six), passes defensed (40) and pass breakups (25, tied with Philadelphia’s Rayshaun Kizer). He set new league single-season records with his six INT returns for touchdowns and 334 INT return yards. 
 
DEFENSIVE BACK OF THE YEAR – Clevan Thomas, San Jose DB
Read above.
 
IRONMAN OF THE YEAR – Huey Whittaker, San Jose WR/LB
After three seasons of so-called Ironman of the Year winners that weren’t two-way players; the league dumped the award. Thus the Ironman award wasn’t included in the official ballot sent out to teams; but I’m hoping the league makes an exception since the All-Ironman team has never part of the ballot because of the outstanding two-way performance by San Jose WR/LB Huey Whittaker this year. Whittaker should’ve received the award last year and this year put out the best two-way performance in the free-substitution era. It’s very sad that the league will likely not honor it.
 
Offensively, Whittaker in 17 games caught 89 balls for 998 yards with 27 touchdowns. He also added a rushing TD and a two-point conversion. On defense, he intercepted six passes and returned four of those for touchdowns (the most ever by a linebacker and a two-way player). Additionally, he tallied 65.5 tackles (2.5 for loss), a sack, two forced fumbles and recovered a loose ball on a kickoff for a touchdown.
 
PLAYMAKER OF THE YEAR – Terrance Sanders, Spokane DB/KR
Sanders led the league in kickoff returns (96), kickoff return yards (2,265) and kickoff return touchdowns (six). Defensively, he was second in tackles (101.0), tied for third in interceptions returned for touchdowns (three) and sixth in interception return yards. Sanders 2,265 kickoff return yards are a new AFL single-season record. I wouldn’t be shocked if the league gave this to Chicago’s Reggie Gray, who also had a great season, but Sanders had almost double the kickoff return yardage and double as many kickoff returns.
 
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – Mario Urrutia, Utah WR
Urrutia led all rookies in receptions (142), receiving yards (1,675), receiving touchdowns (38), points scored (236) and two-point conversions (four, which led the league).
 
KICKER OF THE YEAR – Garrett Lindholm, Arizona kicker
Lindholm led the league in nearly every kicking category. He led in PAT made (158), attempted (168) and PAT percentage (94.0), field goals made (seven) and field goals attempted (12 tied with three others) as well as kicking points (179). Lindholm set league single-season records with 158 PAT made, 168 PAT attempted and his 179 kicking points are tied for the second most ever.
 
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE YEAR – Joe Sykes, San Antonio DL
Sykes, the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year and 2012 Defensive Lineman of the Year, once again led the league in sacks (14.5) and tackles for loss (18.5). He has recorded 30.5 sacks in the last two seasons, which is by far the most in a two-year span.
 
RECEIVER OF THE YEAR – Adron Tennell, Spokane WR
Philly’s Tiger Jones (150-2,121-37) will likely win this award because for some stupid reason the league loves to honor yards more than touchdowns. Last time I checked, scoring is the most important part of this game and Tennell led the league in touchdown receptions (49) as well as total touchdowns (57), points scored (336), receptions and total offensive touches (184).  His 57 total touchdowns rank third most in AFL single-season history and his 336 total points is fourth.
 
LEAGUE MVP – Erik Meyer, Spokane QB
For the third straight year, the league MVP comes from the Western Division (as it should since it’s clearly been the best division all three seasons). Meyer led the league in total touchdowns scored (127), passing touchdowns (112), completion percentage (68.2) and passer rating (123.6). His 11 interceptions were the least of any QB with at least 250 completions. Meyer completed a league-high 403 passeswhile attempting a league-high 591.
 
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Adron Tennell, Spokane WR
I wouldn’t be surprised if the league gives Tampa Bay QB Adrian McPherson this because 31 rushing scores and being intercepted a league-low five times (though he did fumble eight times (five lost), which was the most of any QB). However, his team limped into the playoffs with a losing record as he missed five games and the Storm lost its final seven games. If McPherson played the entire season and continued his pace with rushing touchdowns, then maybe; but missing five games should disqualify him like it did for Tommy Grady in 2011 when he was on pace for even better numbers than his 2012 MVP season when he missed the final three games.
 
That said, Shock’s combination of Meyer and Tennell should be the front runners. Since the league will likely give Receiver of the Year to Tiger Jones as I suspect, my vote for Offensive Player of the Year will be for Tennell. Once again, what’s more important yards or points? Tennell led the league in points. Enough said.
 
COACH OF THE YEAR – Andy Olson, Spokane
This award is the kiss of death if you want to win an ArenaBowl in the same season.  The last Coach of the Year winner to also win the ArenaBowl in the same year was Darren Arbet in 2002. In fact, just five coaches have earned the award and lifted the ArenaBowl trophy in the same season (four if you don’t include Tim Marcum in 1987 since the league didn’t actually give out the award that season and only began saying he won it over a decade later to make the award seem more legit).
 
That said, I’m sure Spokane’s Andy Olson hopes that decade drought ends as he gets my vote for Coach of the Year after taking a closer look at each game. The most telling thing about the Shock’s 2013 season is that all 14 wins were by at least 11 points.  Spokane led the league in total touchdowns (174), completion percentage (68.6), passer rating (123.8), while allowing a league-low 22 turnovers.
 
Additionally, his special teams unit led the league kickoff return yards (2,335, which is an AFL single-season record) and average kickoff return (22.5) and kickoff return TDs (8, tied with Chicago). This shortened field helped the offense tremendously with QB Erik Meyer and WR Adron Tennell lead the league in numerous categories (listed above).
 
Even if the league doesn’t honor Olson’s tremendous sophomore season, it should be the third straight Western Division head coach to win this award assuming that Arizona’s Kevin Guy or San Jose’s Darren Arbet gets it (I’m perfectly fine if any of these three get it because they were clearly the best of the best this season). If any other head coach wins this, then the award should be scrapped. It would be as stupid as John Gregory winning it in 1995 when he was 7-5 and Tim Marcum was 10-2.
 
That being said and 1995 as proof that the league hardly ever gets this award correct, the AFL might give to Chicago’s Bob McMillen due to the teams off the field problems that resulted in home games played outside of Chicago. The Rush was 10-8, which was tied for the sixth best record in the 14-team league this year (that’s middle of the road by the way).
Most of those eight Rush losses weren’t even close. Chicago was beaten by at least two scores in five of his eight losses, which included a 22-point loss to lowly Iowa and two 30-point losses to Philadelphia. That’s not Coach of Year material, but since the Coach of Year winner hasn’t won the ArenaBowl in the same season in more than a decade and McMillen’s Rush will likely lose Thursday night, then he’ll probably win the award. In comparison, Spokane’s four total losses were by a COMBINED 30 points.
 
ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR – Omarr Smith, Arizona Defensive Coordinator
The soon-to-be AFL Hall of Famer guided the defending champs to the league’s best defense in interceptions (41), interception return yards (559), total turnovers forced (58), defensive passer rating (86.8) and pass completion allowed (55.2, tied with San Jose). In an offense dominated game, numbers like this helped the Rattlers to the top record in the league.
 
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR – Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay President
The last three times the league has given the award (not awarded in 2010), it has been given to an executive from a team with a losing record (2012 Iowa, 2011 San Jose, 2008 New Orleans). To continue this trend, Tampa Bay Storm president Derrick Brooks would be my selection. Not because the Storm stumbled into the playoffs at 7-11 but because of the increase in fan base compared to last year.
 
The Storm have always been a strong draw and finished second in the league in attendance (just 859 total behind Orlando). In 2012, the Storm finished fifth in attendance and this year increased had the largest increase in the league by nearly 2,000 more per game. Yes, Orlando barely led the league in attendance, but needed a playoff gimmick and had the luxury of hosting ArenaBowl XXVI to attract fans. The Preds still dropped in attendance by almost 1,000 per game over 2012.
 
Brooks brings so much to the league that I only hope that he’s one day the AFL’s next commissioner. He should be the face of this league in its future. A year from this upcoming Saturday, Brooks will be enshrined as a first-ballot inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is recognized as one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history. Plus, if Brooks is commissioner and the league’s office moves to Tampa then there’s a very good chance a physical AFL Hall of Fame could be built as the state of Florida has the biggest fan support of this sport.
 
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Here’s a look at what the other ArenaFan contributors feel who deserve the 2013 AFL end of the year awards Agree? Disagree? Please post your comments on our Facebook page or message boards and come with facts not that this guy deserves it because he’s on my favorite team.
 
 
 
 
Andy Lopusnak
 
Adam Markowitz
 
Tim Capper
Brian Beaudry
Defensive Player
Clevan Thomas
Virgil Gray
Virgil Gray
Clevan Thomas
Defensive Back
Clevan Thomas
Clevan Thomas
Clevan Thomas
Clevan Thomas
Defensive Lineman
Joe Sykes
Joe Sykes
Joe Sykes
Joe Sykes
Ironman
Huey Whittaker
Huey Whittaker
Huey Whittaker
Huey Whittaker
Playmaker
Terrance Sanders
Terrance Sanders
Reggie Gray
Terrance Sanders
Kicker
Garrett Lindholm
Garrett Lindholm
Garrett Lindholm
Garrett Lindholm
Rookie
Mario Urrutia
Mario Urrutia
Mario Urrutia
Mario Urrutia
Wide Receiver
Adron Tennell
Reggie Gray
Tiger Jones
Adron Tennell
Offensive Player
Adron Tennell
Nick Davila
Nick Davila
A. McPherson
League MVP
Erik Meyer
Adrian McPherson
Adrian McPherson
Erik Meyer
Head Coach
Andy Olson
Bob McMillen
Bob McMillen
Bob McMillen
Assistant Coach
Omarr Smith
Omarr Smith
Omarr Smith
Travis Crusenberry
 
 
 


 
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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