-- WINNER TO BE REVEALED AT NFL HONORS BEFORE SUPER BOWL LI --*
The eight finalists for the 2016 ART ROONEY SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD have been named, the NFL announced today. The finalists, featuring four players from each conference, are linebacker BRIAN CUSHING (Houston), running back FRANK GORE (Indianapolis), linebacker DE MARCUS WARE (Denver) and guard/tackle MARSHAL YANDA (Baltimore) in the AFC, and tight end GREG OLSEN (Carolina), linebacker JULIUS PEPPERS (Green Bay), running back DARREN SPROLES (Philadelphia) and tackle JOE STALEY (San Francisco) in the NFC. All eight of the finalists have Pro Bowl experience and have a combined 38 Pro Bowl selections.
Each NFL team nominated one of its players for the award, which recognizes those who best demonstrate the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition. The award was created in 2014 in honor of the late founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famer ART ROONEY, SR.
A panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community selected the eight finalists from the 32 nominees. The panel is comprised of WARRICK DUNN, CURTIS MARTIN, KARL MECKLENBURG and LEONARD WHEELER.
The eight finalists will be listed on the Pro Bowl ballot under the NFL Sportsmanship Award category when players vote on Friday, December 16. From the eight finalists, each team's players will submit a consensus vote of their choice for the winner. As in Pro Bowl voting, a team cannot vote for its own player.
Last year, the players selected CHARLES WOODSON of the Oakland Raiders as the recipient of the 2015 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. LARRY FITZGERALD of the Arizona Cardinals was the inaugural winner of the award in 2014.
The winner selected by the vote of the players will be announced during the nationally televised NFL Honors show on Saturday, February 4 on FOX, the night before Super Bowl LI. He will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice. He will also receive a trophy that represents the important role that sportsmanship plays in the game and how NFL players that demonstrate integrity and honor on the field serve as role models for players at all levels.
2016 ART ROONEY SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD FINALISTS
Green Bay Packers
San Francisco 49ers
LB Brian Cushing, Houston Texans – An eight-year veteran, Cushing has led the Texans in tackles three times during his career (2009, 2011, 2015), earning All-Pro accolades following the 2009 and 2011 seasons. Cushing was named the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year after posting 133 tackles and four sacks in 2009. Originally selected by Houston in the first round (15th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft, Cushing is the franchise leader with 639 career tackles and was a 2010 Pro Bowl selection.