New Orleans native and former Southern University All-American cornerback Aeneas Williams is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, headlining what was an outstanding night for locals in the NFL. The only downer is that ex-Saints kicker Morten Andersen won’t be joining Williams in the Hall of Fame — at least not yet.
Williams, who distinguished himself with the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams during his 14-year NFL career, was a finalist for the Hall of Fame for the third consecutive year. He forms part of the Class of 2014 alongside Derrick Brooks, Ray Guy (the first punter inducted into the Hall of Fame), Claude Humphrey, Walter Jones, Andre Reed and Michael Strahan, who were selected for induction by a 46-person selection committee.
The class was unveiled during Saturday’s “NFL Honors” award show.
Williams, a cornerback and safety who had 55 career interceptions for the Cardinals and Rams, was All-Pro three times and went to eight Pro Bowls. He attended Fortier for prep school.
Andersen, with the Saints from 1982 to 1994, played a total of 25 seasons and is the NFL’s all-time scoring leader. He was All-Pro five times, a Pro Bowler seven times and was a semifinalist last year.
In other honors involving players with local ties:
— Broncos quarterback and New Orleans native Peyton Manning was the FedEx Air Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and league MVP. The Newman alum set records by throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, leading Denver to the top seed in the AFC as well as a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII against Seattle on Sunday. This is Manning’s fifth MVP trophy — no other player has more than three.
Manning received 49 out of 50 MVP votes. The Denver Post reported that Sirius XM NFL Radio host Jim Miller cast a ballot in favor of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Miller, a former NFL quarterback, was Brady’s backup in 2004, when the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXIX. Brady’s MVP win from 2010 remains the only unanimous one in NFL history.
— Packers running back Eddie Lacy won Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,178 yards, 11 touchdowns and fumbling only once at the start of the season. The Gretna native and graduate of Dutchtown High School was a big reason why 8-8-1 Green Bay advanced to the playoffs.
“This pretty much one of the best moments of my life,” said Lacy, who won three BCS titles at Alabama. “I just wanted to come out and just play the way I knew I was capable of playing.
“My teammates believe in me, and they make me feel comfortable. So, I’m able to play the way I know I’m capable of playing.”
— Rookie Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro finished third in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race, getting four votes. Vaccaro, who lined up all over for the Saints defense, was No. 3 on his team in tackles (79) to go with a sack, an interception and six pass breakups.
Jets end Sheldon Richardson won Defensive Rookie of the Year with 23 votes, and Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso got 19.
— Former University of Louisiana at Lafayette standout Charles Tillman — a cornerback for the Bears for all of his 11 seasons in the NFL — won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which recognizes a player’s off-field service and high-level performance on the gridiron. The NFL honored Tillman for serving the Chicago area with his Cornerstone Foundation, which distributes electronics to thousands of pediatric hospital patients and has given more than $1 million to more than 300 families that are considered either at-risk or in need.
Tillman has been to two Pro Bowls and ranks third in Bears franchise history with 36 interceptions. He is the franchise leader in defensive touchdowns, interceptions returned for touchdowns and interception return yardage.
The Bears veteran said he was grateful to receive “such a prestigious award,” yet he added, “I don’t any of the finalists do what they do to get recognition, but we do it because we are passionate about helping others.”