It was an interesting holiday weekend as New Year's Day, traditionally a celebration of college football bowl games, was instead dominated by the NFL's regular season finale.
As we get ready to watch what promises to be an exciting countdown to the Super Bowl, some key performances from 2011 stand out for me:
Drew Brees: It is remarkable that Brees broke the single-season passing record held by Dan Marino for 27 years. But beyond the accomplishment itself, is the Brees back story. In spite of his record-setting career at Purdue, some thought he was too short (at 6 feet) to make it as an NFL quarterback. Ironically, the second-round draft pick was once replaced by 5-foot-9 Doug Flutie as the starter at San Diego. But Brees battled back, earning the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2004 after leading the Chargers to the playoffs, and earning the first of six Pro Bowl honors. He never looked back. His accomplishments include a Super Bowl Championship, and more than 20 NFL records, yet you almost never hear him talk of his achievements without mentioning the offensive line, receivers, running back and even the defense. He is a consummate team player.
Tim Tebow: Another guy that many said would never make it in the NFL, and the jury is still out on his long-term future in Denver, but this ultra-positive Bronco force can be described as nothing less than a winner. His last minute heroics are notable, as is his work to win over his teammates and assume a leadership role on the field and in the locker room at his young age. Tebow has become more than a player, he's a phenomenon, and a role model, not because he is unabashedly Christian, but because he is principled, and not afraid to say so. Whether you agree with his beliefs or not, it's hard not to appreciate and admire his conviction and his character.
Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben has deservedly been questioned on the character front over the years after a seemingly-never-ending string of bad decisions. But perhaps this is the year that he's turned his life around. Whatever issues he's had in the past cannot take away from the toughness and courage he's shown in the last few weeks. Leading his team to victory in spite of a painful injury proves his value to his team and his commitment to his teammates. Hopefully 2012 will prove him to be as admirable off the field.
Hines Ward: One thousand career catches, all with a smile enough said.
Sean Lee: Another great comeback story, the former Penn State captain who battled back from a serious knee injury led NFL linebackers with four interceptions this season, and gave us a good reason to watch the Dallas Cowboys.
Wishing everyone more wins than losses in 2012 - Happy New Year!
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.