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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Arian Foster and Michael Vick Improbable Player of the Month Award Winners

The NFL released its Player of the Month of September awards on Thursday. The winners from the AFC were Texans running back Arian Foster on offense, Colts defensive end Robert Mathis on defense, and Bengals kicker Mike Nugent on special teams. The NFC winners were Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on offense, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews on defense, and Saints kick returner Courtney Roby on special teams. It may be easy to see now, but if you think back a year or two ago, you’ll realize how improbable it is that Vick and Foster are the offensive players of the month for September in the NFL.

Arian Foster ran for a franchise record 231 yards in Houston’s season-opening win over the Colts. In addition to the impressive opener, Foster leads the NFL with 502 yards from scrimmage and it helped him become the second Houston player in franchise history to win the award.

What makes his story so improbable is that he was just an undrafted player out of Tennessee last year. Foster split carries with several backs for the Vols in 2008, including Montario Hardesty. He ran just a 4.7 40 yard dash and wound up undrafted, though some teams expressed interest. The Texans signed him to a two-year deal, placed him on their practice squad, then added him on the roster late in the year. Foster ended up with 54 carries last year, scoring three touchdowns. This year, he won the starting job and has dominated since week one.

Michael Vick’s story is well chronicled. Vick entered the league in 2001 with about as much hype and fanfare as one can have. After taking Virginia Tech to the national championship game in college, he led the Falcons to a playoff win over the Packers in Green Bay in 2002, his first full year as a starter. Vick never seemed to reach his full potential, taking his team to the playoffs two more times and never really dominating as a passer. It was then discovered that Vick was leading a dog fighting ring, he went to prison, missed two years, and the Eagles gave him a chance when he finished serving his term.

Vick didn’t have much of a role with the Eagles in 2009, falling third on the depth chart behind Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb. This off-season, the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb and handed the starting job to Kevin Kolb. Though some figured he would have a role in short-yardage situations, not many people figured Vick would be Philly’s starting quarterback by week three, but that has happened thanks to Kolb’s concussion. Incredibly, Vick has lit the world on fire and played better than arguably any quarterback in the league.

It’s too early to tell if either player will keep it up the next five years, let alone the rest of this season, but they each should be honored for what they’ve done so far. I don’t believe anyone would have picked either player to win such an award going back two years ago, a year ago, or even a month ago. It’s improbable stories like these that help make the NFL so enjoyable to follow.



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