ORLANDO – At the 2013 AFL Celebrity Gala in Orlando on Thursday, the Arena Football League announced the winners of its most coveted individual honors. Spokane Shock QB Erik Meyer brought home a pair of awards, including the Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Year and AFL MVP of the Year. San Jose Sabercats DB Clevan Thomas earned Riddell Defensive Player of the Year honors, while Chicago Rush WR Reggie Gray was recognized as the J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Year. Utah Blaze WR Mario Urrutia finished off the player awards by earning NET10 Wireless Rookie of the Year honors.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR, AFL MVP OF THE YEAR
Meyer (5-10, 185, Western Illinois) set new single-season franchise records with 4,667 passing yards and 112 passing touchdowns in his first full season as a starter in the AFL. He also left his mark as a runner, recording new franchise-highs with 120 rushing yards and 15 rushing scores. Meyer began 2013 by setting an AFL record with 193 consecutive pass attempts without an interception.
RIDDELL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Thomas (5-10, 195, Florida State), also a First Team All-Arena selection and the recipient of the Defensive Back of the Year award, came out of retirement in 2013, taking the field for the first time since 2008. Thomas played in all 18 games for San Jose, recording a career and franchise-high 15 interceptions. He also set a new AFL single-season record for interceptions returned for a touchdown with six, breaking the previous record of four set in 2008 by Orlando’s Kenny McEntyre and tied in 2012 by Chicago’s Kelvin Morris. Thomas first won the Defensive Player of the Year during his rookie season in 2002 and became the second player in League history to win back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honors, taking home the prize again in 2003. Thomas now joins McEntyre as the only players in AFL history to win three career Defensive Player of the Year awards.
J. LEWIS SMALL PLAYMAKER OF THE YEAR
Gray (5-10, 185, Western Illinois) excelled in a plethora of positions in 18 games with the Rush in 2013. At his natural receiver spot, “Big Play” hauled in 140 receptions for 1,978 yards and 46 touchdowns, the second-highest totals in yards and scores in the AFL this season. The third-year pro led the League in all-purpose yards with 3,144. He also starred as a return specialist, finishing second in the League in kick return average with 22.9 yards per return and 1,145 total kick return yards. As a passer, Gray was 2-for-2, tossing touchdowns on both passes. Gray put together a signature performance against Iowa in Week 6 when he recorded 12 receptions for 234 yards and six touchdowns.
NET10 WIRELESS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Urrutia (6-5, 230, Louisville) hauled in 142 receptions for 1,675 yards and 38 touchdowns this season, leading the Blaze in each category. In his first AFL game, he recorded five receptions for 76 yards and four touchdowns against Pittsburgh. Urrutia also tallied triple-digit receiving yards in eight games in 2013.