A week after earning the first Pro Bowl invitation of his career, Derrick Johnson was recognized by his teammates for outstanding play throughout the 2011 season.
Head coach Romeo Crennel announced during Monday's final team meeting that Johnson had been selected as this season’s Derrick Thomas MVP Award winner. Chiefs players also voted Justin Houston as the team’s Mack Lee Hill Rookie of the Year Award recipient.
“Being in my seventh year, this is a big deal,” Johnson said of the honor. “It’s a player’s award and whenever you have respect from your teammates, that’s all you need.”
Johnson has been a mainstay for the Chiefs defense since he joined the team as a first-round draft pick in 2005, but his seventh NFL season was by far his most productive. Johnson not only established a new franchise single-season tackle record, but also became the unquestioned on-field leader of the Chiefs defense.
His selection as team MVP came as a no-brainer for teammates on both sides of the football.
“He’s the leader of the defense and he’s just so consistent,” said defensive end Glenn Dorsey, who voted for Johnson. “He’s always around the football and plays with a lot of effort. He just pretty much has the mentality of the team.”
Besides leading the team with 179 tackles, Johnson also added 11 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, a pair of interceptions, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. His final statistics were impressive, but it was his leadership that impressed teammates most.
“He’s more vocal and he’s owning the leadership of our defense more than any other time since I’ve been here,” Dorsey explained. “He commands the huddle and he had a tremendous year.”
Johnson is the first linebacker to win the Chiefs MVP award since Marvcus Patton did so in 1999.
It’s an award that Johnson felt could have just as easily gone to fellow linebacker Tamba Hali, who Johnson nominated as his choice for the honor.
“A few people knew they voted for me, so they were looking over at me like I was going to win it,” Johnson said. “I was like, ‘no, it’s probably going to be Tamba.’ Tamba already told me that we’ll be fighting for it again next year.”
For Houston, it was a midseason surge that resonated with teammates most.
After beginning the year as a situational outside linebacker, Houston developed into an every-down player as the season went on. He finished second on the team only to Hali with 5.5 sacks.
A third-round pick out of Georgia, Houston finished his rookie season with 70 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, a fumble recovery and 12 QB pressures. His 5.5 sacks tied for the fifth-highest total by a rookie in Chiefs history and he also recorded six special teams stops.
Johnson was one of the players who voted Houston for the award.
“It’s just the way that he came on,” Johnson said. “For a guy mid-season, to grow up the way he did was great. I definitely had to put him down.”
Johnson and Houston will officially accept their awards at the 42nd Annual 101 Banquet held March 3rd at the Westin Crown Center.
Derrick Thomas Award
For the past 29 years, the Chiefs have upheld the tradition of selecting the club’s most valuable player. Named in honor of the late Derrick Thomas, the Chiefs custom is especially meaningful for its recipients because it is selected by a vote of its peers. Thomas was the heart and soul of the Kansas City defense from 1989-99 and will always be regarded as one of the best linebackers to ever play the game.
|1979||S Gary Barbaro||1996||S Mark Collins|
|1980||DE Art Still||1997||WR Andre Rison|
|1981||RB Joe Delaney||1998||G/T Glenn Parker|
|1982||CB Gary Green||1999||LB Marvcus Patton|
|1983||QB Bill Kenney||2000||WR Derrick Alexander|
|1984||DE Art Still||2001||RB Priest Holmes|
|1985||S Lloyd Burruss||2002||RB Priest Holmes|
|1986||CB Albert Lewis||2003||QB Trent Green|
|1987||WR Carlos Carson||2004||QB Trent Green|
|1988||S Deron Cherry||2005||RB Larry Johnson|
|1989||RB Christian Okoye||2006||RB Larry Johnson|
|1990||QB Steve DeBerg||2007||DE Jared Allen|
|1991||LB Derrick Thomas||2008||TE Tony Gonzalez|
|1992||DE Neil Smith||2009||RB |
|1993||RB Marcus Allen||2010||RB Jamaal Charles|
|1994||LB Derrick Thomas||2011||LB Derrick Johnson|
|1995||RB Marcus Allen|
Mack Lee Hill Award
Each year since 1966, Chiefs players have selected a recipient for the Mack Lee Hill Award. It is a tribute to the late Mack Lee Hill, a great running back who played as much with his heart as he did his driving legs. The award is presented annually to the Chiefs rookie or first year player who, as the inscription on the trophy reads - “best exemplifies the spirit of the late Mack Lee Hill … the man with the giant heart and the quiet way.”
|1966||RB Mike Garrett||1990||LB Percy Snow|
|1967||K Jan Stenerud||1991||LB Tracy Simien|
|1968||RB Robert Holmes||1992||WR Willie Davis|
|1969||CB Jim Marsalis||1993||G Will Shields|
|1970||C Jack Rudnay||1994||WR Lake Dawson|
|1971||WR Elmo Wright||1995||WR Tamarick Vanover|
|1972||WR Larry Marshall||1996||S Reggie Tongue|
|1973||TE Gary Butler||1997||TE Tony Gonzalez|
|1974||RB Woody Green||1998||T Victor Riley|
|1975||TE Walter White||1999||LB Mike Maslowski|
|1976||S Gary Barbaro||2000||S Greg Wesley|
|1977||CB Gary Green||2001||DT Eric Downing|
|1978||NT Don Parrish||2002||LB Scott Fujita|
|1979||P Bob Grupp||2003||LB Kawika Mitchell|
|1980||CB Eric Harris||DE Jimmy Wilkerson|
|1981||S Lloyd Burruss||2004||DE Jared Allen|
|1982||C Les Studdard||2005||LB Derrick Johnson|
|1983||T David Lutz||2006||DE Tamba Hali|
|1984||CB Kevin Ross||2007||WR |
|1985||RB Jeff Smith||2008||CB Maurice Leggett|
|1986||LB Dino Hackett||2009||K |
|1987||RB Christian Okoye||2010||S |
|1988||RB James Saxon||2011||OLB Justin Houston|
|1989||LB Derrick Thomas|
By Josh Looney, KC Chiefs Website