SAN FRANCISCO: Cam Newton was crowned the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player here on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as the Carolina Panthers quarterback warmed up for the Super Bowl with two honors on the sport’s annual awards night.
Newton, who had been the runaway favorite to scoop the MVP award after a record-breaking season which saw him pass for 35 touchdowns and rush for 10 more, also won the offensive player of the year award.
The 26-year-old signal-caller’s father Cecil was on hand to collect the honors on behalf of his son before a star-studded audience at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in downtown San Francisco.
Newton’s rivals for the MVP award were New England Patriots veteran Tom Brady and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer.
Television comedian Conan O’Brien launched the evening with a jab at the movie industry’s Academy Awards, which has been reeling from accusations of institutional racism after no black actor received a nomination.
“Winning an NFL honor is like winning an Oscar — if the Oscars nominated black people,” O’Brien quipped. There was more glory for Carolina Panthers with head coach Ron Rivera winning the coach of the year award.
Rivera masterminded a 17-1 campaign for the Panthers to guide them into Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos.
Houston Texans star J.J. Watt was named defensive player of the year while Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was named rookie of the year.
Like Newton, Rivera did not attend the ceremony as he prepares his team to face Denver.
Meanwhile the awards saw confirmation of the latest batch of players to be admitted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The eight-strong class of 2016 was headed by Green Bay Packers legend Brett Favre, the three-time MVP winner who held the all-time passing yardage record until it was surpassed by Peyton Manning this season.
There was also a poignant confirmation for late Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler, who died of colon cancer last July.
Stabler’s entry came just days after researchers revealed the man known as “The Snake” during flamboyant playing career in the 1970s had been suffering from the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) before his death.
Other NFL figures to enter the Hall of Fame included owner Edward DeBartolo, coach Tony Dungy, defensive end Kevin Greene, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, tackle Orlando Pace and guard Dick Stanfel.
However there was no place for the often polarizing figure of Terrell Owens, a six-time Pro Bowl selection who played 15 seasons in the NFL which included stints at the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
“Unfortunately I did not make it,” Owens wrote on Twitter after his snub. “CONGRATS to the 2016 HOF CLASS. Thanks to ALL MY FANS for ur unwavering love & support. #ONLYGODCANJUDGEME.”