The NFL announced Thursday that Derwin James is one of 32 nominees for the eighth-annual 2021 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.
Each NFL team nominates one of its players for the award, which recognizes players around the league who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship on the field. This is James' first nomination with the Bolts.
Now in his fourth season, the safety is fully healthy and his return to the field has been key for this Chargers defense as he's been entrusted with calling plays.
But his impact as a leader on the team as a whole may mean even more.
"I think everyone is aware of the record of this team without him and the record of this team with him," head coach Brandon Staley said of James. "That's, usually, a great predictor of your value. Not just from a pure player standpoint, but from a competitor and leadership standpoint, you can't put a price or a value on the energy and the feeling that you have every day when he's there. Just a rare, rare guy. Really glad that we have him."
"His energy and the way he leads us [stands out,]" mentioned Keenan Allen. "Every day, he comes out with a passion. He just leads us in the right way. He's making plays. When we need a turnover, he goes down and makes it ... Every time that we need a play, he's the one who comes up with it."
Created in 2014 in honor of the late founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Rooney Sr., the award is presented each year to an NFL player who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
A panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community – Warrick Dunn, Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, Leonard Wheeler, and 2014 Art Rooney Sportsmanship recipient Larry Fitzgerald – will select eight finalists (four in the AFC and four in the NFC) from the 32 nominees. The eight finalists will be listed on the Pro Bowl ballot under the NFL Sportsmanship Award category when players vote later this month.
The winner will be announced as part of NFL Honors. He will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice.
Past winners of the award include Teddy Bridgewater (2020), Adrian Peterson (2019), Drew Brees (2018), Luke Kuechly (2017), Frank Gore (2016), Charles Woodson (2015), and Larry Fitzgerald (2014).