The San Francisco 49ers announced team awards on Thursday, which were likely voted on last week, or Monday before the team departed for the offseason. There was one notable surprise among the votes. NaVorro Bowman won the Ed Block Courage Award, which is voted on by each team. However, he was beaten out for the Len Eshmont Award by Anquan Boldin.
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." My question is not about Boldin, who remains a tough as nails player. But given what Bowman went through to get back on the football field, I'm a little surprised he did not get that award.
Phil Dawson took home the team MVP award, which is named after Bill Walsh. Dawson had a great season, converting 24 of 27 field goals and 20 of 21 extra points. I think the fact that the former number is larger than the latter explains a little bit why Dawson took home team MVP. Bowman was likely a candidate as well given that he led the NFL in tackles and was an important cog on a young defense.
It's great to see Jimmie Ward win the Hazeltine Iron Man Award. Ward struggled early in his rookie season, and had it cut short by injury. This year, he played the entire season, and was arguably the 49ers best defensive player over the latter portion of the season.
Here's a rundown of the awards, with winners and player quotations, courtesy of 49ers PR.
Len Eshmont Award: WR Anquan Boldin
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.
"This really means a lot to me," said Boldin. "Those are the guys that get a chance to see you every day, day in and day out, get to see you put in work. So, it's big to earn the respect of your peers and an honor that they voted me the winner."
Bill Walsh Award: K Phil Dawson
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.
"Any award with Bill Walsh's name attached to it is a big deal," said Dawson. "In my three years in San Francisco, I've grown to learn even more about coach Walsh and respect him all the more. So, that's a tremendous honor in and of itself. But, then to consider that the coaches were the ones voting on this, just puts it over the top. In most places, the kicker is just kind of an afterthought or a necessary evil. I've always tried to just be a football player and just come to work and do my job. This means quite a bit given the fact that I am a kicker. There are certainly other guys on the team who are deserving and I hold them in high regard. So, when you mix all that together, it's a pretty special deal."
Bobb McKittrick Award: T Joe Staley
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.
"It's an honor to win the Bobb McKittrick Award," said Staley. "It's a very long standing tradition with what Bob McKittrick meant to this organization and coaching the offensive line. It stands for a lot."
Hazeltine Iron Man Award: DB Jimmie Ward
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.
"First of all, I'd like to thank the defensive coaches who voted for me to win this award," said Ward. "It's a real honor to have any award when you're in the NFL, especially one voted on by your coaches. So, it's a humbling accomplishment in the second year of my NFL career."
Thomas Herrion Memorial Award: S Jaquiski Tartt
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.
"It's honor to receive this award," said Tartt. "I accept this award with deep gratitude and want to thank the coaches for believing in me. Coming from a small school, people want to look down on you and don't always want to provide an opportunity to play in the NFL. I'm so thankful they gave me a chance to play at the next level."
Perry/Yonamine Unity Award: NT Ian Williams
The Perry/Yonamine award is presented to the 49ers player who exhibits an exceptional commitment to promoting unity within the team and in their community. The Perry/Yonamine Unity Award is named for the former 49ers players and pioneers of unity and diversity, Joe "The Jet" Perry and Wally Yonamine, and is voted on by the players.
"It means a lot to be the recipient of the Perry/Yonamine Unity Award," said Williams. "Knowing what your teammates think of you, not even telling you to your face but just knowing what they think of you in their heads, how respected you are in the locker room, that means a lot to me."
Community Relations Service Awards
Together, players from the San Francisco 49ers provided over 450 hours of community service during the 2015 season. Including the annual Pasta Bowl, 100 percent of the team participated in at least one community service event during the year. Top participants and winners of the Community Relations Service Awards were P Bradley Pinion, who won the rookie player award and DT Quinton Dial, who was presented with this season's veteran player award. Additionally, TE Vance McDonald and his wife Kendi, along with WR Torrey Smith and his wife Chanel with their son TJ, are co-recipients of the family award. Dennis Brown was presented with the alumnus award for the fifth consecutive year, while Eric Heitmann and his wife Emily with their daughters Ellie and Evie received the family alumnus award.
Walter Payton Man of the Year Nominee: WR Anquan Boldin
The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, named after the late Hall of Fame running back of the Chicago Bears, is given annually to the player who best exemplifies a commitment to philanthropy and community involvement.
Each team will nominate one player and the 32 Man of the Year nominees will be pared down to three finalists in January. The winner will be announced in San Francisco, the site of Super Bowl 50, during the fifth annual NFL Honors awards show, onFebruary 6.
Ed Block Courage Award: LB NaVorro Bowman
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 award is presented in his name each year to the player that exemplified a commitment to sportsmanship and courage. Ed Block Courage Award winners from each of the 32 NFL teams are honored at a banquet in Baltimore, MD. All proceeds from the event benefit the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation's Courage House National Support Network. Named after the NFL team in a respective NFL city, a Courage House is a facility that provides support and quality care for abused children and their families in that community. The 49ers dedicated their Courage House in October 2003 at the Edgewood House in San Francisco.