The eight finalists for the inaugural NFL Sportsmanship Award have been finalized, the NFL announced today. The finalists, featuring four players from each conference, are linebacker THOMAS DAVIS (Carolina),
wide receiver LARRY FITZGERALD(Arizona), linebacker CHAD GREENWAY(Minnesota), wide receiver CALVIN JOHNSON(Detroit), safety TROY POLAMALU(Pittsburgh), wide receiver-special teamer MATTHEW SLATER(New England), quarterback ALEX SMITH(Kansas City) and defensive endDE MARCUS WARE(Denver).
Each NFL team nominated one of its players for the award earlier this season, which will recognize annually NFL players who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship on the field. A panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community selected from the 32 nominees eight finalists. The panel is comprised of WARRICK DUNN, CURTIS MARTIN, KARL MECKLENBURG and LEONARD WHEELER.
The winner of the NFL Sportsmanship Award will be determined by a vote of current NFL players. The eight finalists will be listed on the Pro Bowl ballot under the NFL Sportsmanship Award when the players vote on December 19. From the eight finalists, each team's players will submit a consensus vote of its choice for the winner. As in Pro Bowl voting, a team cannot vote for its own player.
The award will be presented annually to an NFL player who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
The winner selected by the vote of the players will be announced during the nationally televised "4th Annual NFL Honors" show on Saturday, January 31 on NBC, the night before Super Bowl XLIX. He will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice. He also will be presented with a trophy that will capture the important role that sportsmanship plays in the game and how NFL players that demonstrate integrity and honor on the field serve as role models for other players at all levels.
- LB Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers–* *Davis is a 10-year NFL veteran and four-time team captain. Davis ranks second on the team's all-time list with 705 tackles. Davis was the 14th overall selection by the Panthers in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
- WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals– Fitzgerald was selected by the Cardinals with the third overall selection of the 2004 NFL Draft. An 11-year veteran, Fitzgerald is the team's all-time leading receiver with 903 receptions for 12,089 and 89 touchdowns. In 2008, Fitzgerald set an NFL record for receptions (30), receiving yards (546) and touchdown receptions (seven) in a single postseason on the way to the team's appearance in Super Bowl XLIII. * *
- *LB Chad Greenway, Minnesota Vikings *– Greenway, a nine-year veteran linebacker for Minnesota, was a first-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft. Greenway is the Vikings' all-time leading tackler with 981 tackles. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Greenway has led the Vikings in tackles for each of the past six seasons, tying a franchise record.
- WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions– Johnson ranks first in Lions history with 10,263 receiving yards and 72 touchdowns. Johnson has the most receiving yards (6,072) and the second-most catches (363) in the league since 2011. Johnson set the NFL's all-time single-season record with 1,964 receiving yards during the 2012 season.* *
- S Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers– Polamalu was a first round selection in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Steelers. A 12-year veteran, Polamalu ranks third on the team's all-time list with 755 tackles. Polamalu also has the third-most tackles in Steelers postseason history, and helped lead Pittsburgh to victories in Super Bowls XL and XLIII.* *
- WR/ST Matthew Slater, New England Patriots– Slater, a wide receiver and special teams standout for the Patriots, is a seven-year veteran after being selected in the 2008 NFL Draft. Slater has led the team in special teams tackles in each of the past three seasons. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Slater has served as a Patriots team captain for the past four years.* *
- QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs– A 10-year veteran, Smith joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 and was the first overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. In two seasons with the Chiefs, Smith has quarterbacked the team to a 19-10 regular-season record. In 2013, Smith became only the second quarterback in Chiefs history to win his first nine starts in a Kansas City uniform and led the team to a postseason berth.* *
- *DE DeMarcus Ware, Denver Broncos *– Ware is a 10-year veteran and seven-time Pro Bowler who joined the Broncos in 2014. He spent his first nine NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys after being selected by the team in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Since entering the league in 2005, Ware has 611 tackles and an NFL-best 127 sacks.