NFL: WR/KR Harvin is top offensive rookie
By BARRY WILNER
AP Football Writer
NEW YORK — The Little Phenom is the NFL’s top offensive rookie.
Percy Harvin used his versatility and intelligence to win The Associated Press 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver/kick returner ran away with the balloting the same way he outran defenses and special teams this season. Harvin received 41 votes Wednesday from the nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league. Baltimore tackle Michael Oher was second with six votes.
The 22nd overall draft pick out of Florida, Harvin had 60 receptions for 790 yards and six touchdowns; rushed 15 times for 135 yards; and returned 42 kickoffs for 1,156 yards (27.5 per) and two touchdowns, one covering 101 yards.
He tied with the Colts’ Austin Collie for most catches by a rookie and set Minnesota’s single-season franchise record for all-purpose yardage with 2,081.
“I call him Little Phenom,” said teammate Adrian Peterson, the 2007 Offensive Rookie of the Year. “He’s got the heart of a lion when he’s out there playing.”
He’s also got the confidence of his entire team, including a 40-year-old quarterback who demands excellence.
“I think Percy’s on his way to a league of his own,” Brett Favre said. “He’s quick like Wes Welker. He’s got a long ways to go to be in the same category with Wes, but at the rate he’s going he’s a dominant force in a lot of ways.”
Precisely the reason Harvin dominated the voting and was added to the Pro Bowl this week.
He missed one game in December with migraine headaches, about the only thing that slowed him. He had six catches for 101 yards and a TD against Chicago, and scored on kick runbacks against Pittsburgh (88 yards) and San Francisco (101).
“I came in with ’I’m ready for anything, I’m expecting anything,’ so nothing surprised me. I’m pretty good on that end,” Harvin said.
There were some questions about how well Harvin, who left Florida after his junior season, would adjust to the NFL. It didn’t take long for him to answer, catching his first pro TD pass in the opener at Cleveland, a 6-yarder from Favre that was followed by a celebratory tackle by the quarterback.
“I thought we were going to bump chests or something,” Harvin said at the time. “He wasn’t slowing down. I took it and we fell to the ground. It was a great feeling.”
As was much of the season for the speedster, who helped Minnesota win the NFC North at 12-4 and earn a first-round playoff bye.
Teammates and coaches speak not only of his natural talent, but his football know-how.
“He’s a smart player,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “Now he hasn’t had all the reps in his background of just being a wide receiver as another guy may have had coming out of college, but he’s a fast learner. He picks things up and he understands football.”
That’s a source of pride for the 21-year-old Harvin.
“Just how quickly I was able to adjust and learn the system,” he said of meeting early NFL challenges. “Reading the coverages and things like that. I think I’ve been doing it fairly well at a quick time. So I’m impressed with that.”
Harvin is the sixth Vikings player to win the award, joining Peterson, Randy Moss (1998), Sammy White (1976), Chuck Foreman (1973) and Paul Flatley (1963).
Also receiving votes this season were Philadelphia receiver Jeremy Maclin, Denver running back Knowshon Moreno and Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace, each with one.