The Ottumwa Courier

Iowa Sports

January 8, 2008

Former Hawkeye Bob Sanders wins NFL Defensive Player award

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bob Sanders wants to redefine the role of NFL safeties.

The former Iowa Hawkeye thinks they should cover receivers deep, lock up tight ends and running backs in man-to-man coverage, be versatile enough to play in nickel packages, stuff the run, and, yes, still carry that old, big-hitting label.

A few more seasons like 2007 could turn Sanders into the league’s newest trendsetter.

On Monday, Sanders was rewarded for his do-it-all style by becoming the first Colts’ player to earn the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

“I think the league is beginning to recognize that safeties are very important to a good defense,” Sanders said. “I think I’m only the fourth safety to ever win this award, and it’s an awesome feeling to be in Ed Reed’s shoes.”

Reed, the 2004 honoree, was the last safety to win the award, and Sanders and Reed are the only safeties to win it since Seattle’s Kenny Easley in 1984. Miami’s Dick Anderson also won the award in 1973.

The voting wasn’t close.

Less than two weeks after becoming the league’s highest-paid safety, Sanders received 31 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL, easily outdistancing Seattle end Patrick Kerney and Tennessee tackle Albert Haynesworth. Kerney and Haynesworth each got four votes.

Sanders established career highs in tackles (132), sacks (3 1/2) and interceptions (two) and became the uncontested leader in Indy’s impressive defensive turnaround when three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney went down with a season-ending foot injury in mid-November.

As opponents found out, Sanders never slowed down.

“He is a lot like Donnie Shell and John Lynch,” coach Tony Dungy said, referring to two safeties he knew from his days in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. “But he (Sanders) is a 4.4 guy with that striking ability, and that’s rare to find.”

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