Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, as expected, won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award Saturday night at the NFL Honors show, while cornerback Marcus Peters ran away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award as well. The ceremony took place in San Francisco, California in conjunction with Super Bowl 50.
A little more than a year after his first round of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, Berry’s selection surprised virtually no one. After all, very few people in the history of the league have ever made such a miraculous return in such a short period of time. Berry, 27, not only beat cancer, but returned to the field and played at a Pro Bowl level, helping the Chiefs to a 12-6 overall record (including playoffs) in 2015.
“To be honest with you, I think it will mean a lot for the people who followed my story – the people who are going through things and fighting through something like cancer,” Berry explained of winning the award. “I just wanted to show those people anything is possible and that you can’t let anything come between you and your dreams.”
“As long as somebody sees my story and is inspired,” Berry continued, “I think that was my main goal going through everything that I went through – just being strong for people who couldn’t be strong for themselves.”
Meanwhile, Berry’s teammate in the Chiefs defensive backfield, Marcus Peters, 23, capped off a storybook rookie season that could not have gone better for him personally. There was a bit of concern about character when the Chiefs took the troubled player in the first round of the 2015 Draft with the 18th overall pick as Peters had been dismissed from his collegiate team, the Washington Huskies, during the 2014 season after having a run-in with the coaching staff.
Bur from the moment Peters stepped on the field for training camp in St. Joseph, Missouri last August, he proved to be the big-time playmaker the defense had been lacking for a few years. Peters had three interceptions in his first full practice at camp, an interception of Brian Hoyer on the first play of his career in Week One against the Houston Texans, and a pick-six against future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning, in his first home game at Arrowhead in Week Two. Not a bad start for the rookie.
Peters would go on to lead the league for interceptions with eight – only the fifth time a rookie has accomplished that feat since 1986 – and was a force on the defense throughout the year. Only linebacker Derrick Johnson (1,060) and defensive back Ron Parker (1,055) played more snaps for the Chiefs defense last season than Peters (1,036), who ultimately capped off a phenomenal rookie season with a trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii last week.
Peters ranked fifth among NFL defensive backs in lowest “burn percentage”, getting beat on just 62 of 134 throws (46 percent). For a comparison, the Carolina Panthers’ Josh Norman, who many believe is one of the best cornerbacks in the league and playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday, was burned 49 percent of the time. Peters ranked second in the NFL with 26 passes defensed and his 280 return yards on interceptions were more than double the next-best total – 136 yards by the St. Louis Rams’ Trumaine Johnson, who had 7 interceptions.
Peters becomes the fourth player in franchise history to win the Defensive ROY award, joining lineman Bill Maas (1984), linebacker Derrick Thomas (1989), and cornerback Dale Carter (1992).