The 32 candidates for the 2021 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award are out, and the Lions have nominated running back Jamaal Williams.
Earlier this week, the nominee from each NFL team for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award were announced and Jason Cabinda is the Detroit Lions’ candidate. On Thursday the candidates for the 2021 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award were announced, and running back Jamaal Williams is the Lions’ nominee.
Each team nominated one of its own players for the award, which recognizes players around the league who exemplify sportsmanship on the field–including fair play, respect for the game and opponents and integrity in competition.
Williams is having a solid first season with the Lions as the No. 2 running back, with 110 carries for 459 yards and 22 catches for 126 yards in 10 games. But he also brings personality to the field and his media sessions. The week he was set to return from injury earlier this season, he wore his helmet and jersey to the podium–naturally inviting questions about where else he might don his helmet.
Justin Rogers of The Detroit News said it best about Williams.
"As his media sessions have shown, there’s nothing conventional about Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams.The question-answer format with Williams quickly breaks down into a stream-of-conscious riffing with reporters, like a comedian working a crowd. While the football stuff eventually gets addressed, Williams’ off-the-wall personality keeps the room on its toes and provides a reminder that football is a game and is meant to be fun."
The Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award was created in 2014, and players will vote for the winner as part of Pro Bowl balloting after the field is narrowed to eight finalists (four from each conference). Previous Lions nominees include Frank Ragnow, Matthew Stafford, Don Muhlbach, Haloti Ngata, Glover Quin and Calvin Johnson.