NEW YORK (AP) -- Jonathan Vilma brought exactly what the New York Jets needed on defense with a performance so brilliant he won The Associated Press 2004 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Vilma, the 12th pick in last year's draft, did it with the speed and exuberance that convinced New York to make him the first linebacker chosen. A terror at the University of Miami, Vilma moved into the starting lineup in Game 3 and led a defensive revival that lifted the Jets (10-6) into the playoffs.
Vilma scored on a 38-yard interception return in New York's season finale, giving the Jets a lead they couldn't protect. He was the first Jets rookie to return an interception for a TD since safety Erik McMillan in 1988. McMillan also was Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Vilma had six tackles in that game, giving him 116 for the season. He had two sacks, three interceptions, four passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Houston cornerback Dunta Robinson was second with 12 votes, followed by Denver linebacker D.J. Williams with seven and Washington safety Sean Taylor with three. Williams and Taylor also played at Miami.
Robinson, a starter all season at right cornerback, led the Texans and all NFL rookies with six interceptions, adding 85 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles and 19 passes defensed. The Texans selected Robinson out of South Carolina with the 10th overall pick of the draft.