(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
With the season officially over (I know, it hurts me more to type that than it was originally surprising to type things like "NFC Championship Game") the 49ers move into off-season mode. One of the first steps in doing-so is handing out the yearly awards to the players who embody the specific virtues of each distinction.
Not surprising to anyone who watched him play in 2011/2012, Justin Smith cleaned-up on these awards. It's an easy decision to make considering how hard the guy plays the entire game for a nearly 300lb. individual. Smith also made so many plays this year that were instrumental in propelling the team to a 14-4 overall record.
Beneath the jump is the full press-release.
Len Eshmont Award: DT Justin Smith
The Len Eshmont Award is voted on by the players and is given to the 49er who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team. Eshmont, who coached at Navy and Virginia following his career in San Francisco, died in 1957. The award was established that year.
Bill Walsh Award: DT Justin Smith
The Bill Walsh Award was established in 2004 in honor of San Francisco's Hall of Fame Head Coach. Walsh served as the team's head coach for 10 seasons from 1979-88. In that time, he compiled a record of 102-63-1 and led the team to three Super Bowls. He was twice named Coach of the Year (1981, 1984) and was later named Coach of the Decade for the 1980s. The award, which is voted on by coaches, is given to the 49ers team MVP, honoring his outstanding individual performance.
Bobb McKittrick Award: C Jonathan Goodwin
The Bobb McKittrick Award is given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the longtime offensive line coach, during his 21 years of service to the 49ers. The award was established by the 49ers in 1999, and is voted on by the offensive line.
Hazeltine Iron Man Award: DT Justin Smith
The Hazeltine Iron Man Award is named for former linebacker Matt Hazeltine, a 13-year performer who played more seasons at linebacker than any other 49ers player. Known for his durability and dedication, Hazeltine passed away in 1987 from ALS, and Bill Walsh established the award in his honor that year. The award is given annually to the most courageous and inspirational defensive player as voted upon by the defensive coaches.
Thomas Herrion Memorial Award: CB Cory Nelms
Thomas Herrion Memorial Award was established in 2005 by 49ers owners Denise and John York and is presented to a rookie or first-year player who best represents the dream of Thomas Herrion. The recipient has taken advantage of every opportunity, turned it into a positive situation and made their dream turn into a reality. The award is voted on by the coaches.
Ed Block Courage Award: QB Alex Smith
Alex Smith has been chosen by his teammates as the 2011 Ed Block Courage Award recipient. The award, which is given annually to the player that exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage, is the first for Smith. The starting quarterback also symbolizes professionalism, great strength, dedication and serves as a community role model for others, which are requirements to receive the award. Smith is just the second quarterback in franchise history to win the award and first since Joe Montana in 1986.
A seven-year veteran, Smith led the 49ers to a 14-4 overall record and the NFC West division crown for the first time since 2002. Smith posted some of the best numbers of his career in 2011, throwing for career highs in passing yards (2,931), completion percentage (61.0 %) and quarterback rating (90.1). He threw just five interceptions on the year, the fewest of his career and the least in the NFL in 2011.
Smith was originally a first round (1st pick overall) draft choice by the 49ers in 2005 from of the University of Utah. Despite not being under contract with the 49ers during the 2011 offseason, Smith was one of the key orchestrators of the players' organized workouts and camps at San Jose State. After enduring many obstacles during his tenure with the organization from injuries to coaching changes, Smith chose to re-sign with the team after the lockout.
The Ed Block Courage Award is named after Ed Block, the former head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts of 23 years. Block was a pioneer in his profession and a respected humanitarian whose most passionate cause was helping children of abuse. The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation promotes the prevention of child abuse by raising awareness of the epidemic and assisting agencies who provide for the care and treatment of abused children in communities throughout the National Football League (NFL). The Edgewood Center for Children & Families in San Francisco is the local Courage House supported by the San Francisco 49ers.
All 32 Ed Block Courage Award winners will be honored at an event in Baltimore, MD, on March 9, 201
02. For more information, visit www.edblock.org, or call the Ed Block office at (410) 821-6252.