After the Lombardi Trophy, the NFL MVP award is arguably the biggest individual prize in all of American Football. Apart from the respect that comes with it, the legacy of its recipient is enhanced manifold. The award is the ultimate seal of confirmation that the player has performed above and beyond his abilities throughout the season.
Due to the increasing offensive nature of the game, most of the awards have gone to quarterbacks and running backs. More often, these players have gone on ahead to have exceptional careers with many Super Bowl victories with their respective sides. Legends like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have won the award on multiple occasions.
With the upcoming NFL season on the horizon, today we look at the youngest NFL players to ever receive this coveted award.
#10. Steve Young
Being the successor to Joe Montana for the 49ers is no easy feat. However, Steve Young managed to uphold the legacy that his mentor had formed. In doing so, he also created a legendary status for himself. Young won the MVP award at the age of 31. In the 1994 season, it was clear as day who was the best quarterback in the league.
The way he maneuvered the opposition defense to pick out his runners was a treat to watch. Even now, players like Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes have admitted to studying his game tapes to develop their game awareness. He had the highest passer rating among NFL quarterbacks with at least 1,500 passing attempts.
Young’s career was chock-full of memorable moments. Ever since his college days, he was a prolific passer of the pigskin. His teammates often say that their workload was considerably cut down by the brilliance of Steve Young.
Apart from Young, Brian Sipe also won the MVP award in 1980 at the age of 31.
#9. Tom Brady
Arguably the greatest player to ever grace the game, Tom Brady finds himself at ninth on our list only because of his age. Having won the coveted award at the age of 30, it has to be said that Brady was a beast in the 2007 season.
Under the tutelage of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady was already a legend in his own right. Three Super-Bowl victories and two Super Bowl MVPs should be enough to prove his greatness to his critics. By the time he won the regular-season MVP, the New England Patriots had started their dominance over other franchises.
In that season, Brady lit up the league with ridiculous passing stats. He had 50 touchdown passes and finished with a perfect 16-0 mark that season. There is no denying the fact that the brilliance of Tom Brady was the reason why the Patriots were able to achieve new heights in the NFL.
Apart from Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw also won the award in 1978 at the age of 30.
#8. Barry Sanders
When the name of Barry Sanders is mentioned in any conversation, the first image that comes to mind is him sprinting along the touchline while the opposition defense haplessly tries to stop him. One of the few running backs to have ever won the MVP award, Barry Sanders is a legend of the modern era.
Having won the award at the age of 29, he is the oldest RB to receive this honor. Moreover, he is also one of the few who managed to cross the 2000-yard threshold in a single season. 1997 was truly his year as no team could find an answer to his nimble movements and quick change of pace.
Outperforming many prolific quarterbacks and winning the MVP is not an easy task. However, Sanders made it look relatively simple with match-winning performances in every game. Even his impact on the Detroit Lions was enough to mandate some sort of an honor in his name.
#7. Kurt Warner
People who grew up watching the NFL in the late 90s and 2000s will remember the dominance of Kurt Warner. The young quarterback was at the heart of every play and managed to deliver in every game. Winning the coveted honor at the age of 28, Warner was the last player to lift the MVP and the Lombardi Trophy in the same season.
Such was the impact of Kurt Warner that he single-handedly carried the St. Louis Rams to their only Super Bowl victory in 1999. His technical brilliance was the main factor that set the team apart from the rest. And the most astonishing fact is that Warner wasn’t even supposed to feature in that season. He was brought in to fill for Trent Green, who suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason.
Apart from Warner, Shaun Alexander was another player who won the MVP award at the age of 28.
#6. Peyton Manning
There is no doubt about the fact that Peyton Manning is one of, if not the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league. His achievements over a long career speak for themselves when it comes to proving his greatness. Manning is the recipient of the most MVP awards in NFL history with five awards to his name. He won his first at the age of 27 with the Indianapolis Colts.
Although it took him five years to win his first MVP title, it is fair to say that 2003 was the start of the most prolific careers of all time. Manning is also the first player to win the title while playing for two different sides. His first four MVP awards are with the Indianapolis Colts and the last is with the Denver Broncos.
Manning was an absolute beast in every aspect of the game. There was an intelligent head on his broad shoulders as he picked apart every defense with remarkable ease. Many upcoming players have admitted that they were inspired by the brilliance of Peyton Manning and want to emulate his feats on the biggest stage of all.
The NFL is working on securing his legacy by including him in the Hall of Fame this year. However, Manning was always a hall of Famer in the minds of NFL fanatics.
#5. Cam Newton
No one needs a recollection of just how good Cam Newton was in the 2015 season. He played a level above everyone else on that season. Opposition defenses had to change their ways to cope with his yet. But he still managed to come out unscathed and deliver match-winning performances.
Newton won the MVP award with the Carolina Panthers at the age of 26. However, as we all know, the MVP award is not given based on individual performances alone. The synergy of the franchise and overall performances are also taken into account.
By that judgment, Cam Newton should’ve won the MVP award by a larger margin as the Panthers defense was non-penetrable and strong as a bolder that season. They were a complete team that was hell-bent on lifting the Lombardi trophy. However, it was not to be as they were defeated by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
#4. Thurman Thomas
Thomas was another one of the small set of young running backs who won the MVP award. His speed and agility were among his biggest strengths that worked in his favor. In the 1991 season, he was practically unstoppable. NBA fanatics remember him as the tall and burly RB who used to power through opposition defenses.
Winning the award at 25 years old with the Buffalo Bills, Thurman Thomas was a force of nature. Critics consider his season as the best from a running back. That year he ran 1407 yards which was a lot in that era.
Apart from Thomas, Marcus Allen and Bert Jones also won the award at the age of 25. Marcus Allen won it with the Las Vegas Raiders in 1985 and Jones did it with the Indianapolis Colts way back in 1976.
#3. Emmitt Smith
Winning the regular-season MVP and the Super Bowl MVP in the same season is a fine accomplishment. Not many players have been able to do that. However, doing it at the age of 24 is an even greater achievement. Emmitt Smith managed to do exactly that. The only running back in Cowboys’ history to win the coveted award, Smith is considered by many as the player who changed the way took the league by storm.
There is an interesting anecdote about Emmitt Smith participating in the postseason of 1994. During that time, he was experiencing quite a lot of discomfort and was not in a position to play. Yet he managed to somehow convince the coach and stepped onto the field. What he did after went down in the history books as one of the greatest postseason performances of all time. He ran 132 yards in the Super Bowl and also scored 2 touchdowns in the game.
The legacy of Emmitt Smith will remain untarnished for years to come as he is the inspiration to many of the current crop of RBs in the league.
#2. Patrick Mahomes
No one can deny the fact that Patrick Mahomes has already become the face of the league. On of the youngest quarterbacks in recent history, it is hard to think that Mahomes always considered his career to go in the direction of baseball. However, we have his early baseball training to thank for that rocket arm and the outrageous things he does with it.
Winning the MVP award in 2018 at the age of 23, Mahomes’ rise to the top of the league has been meteoric, to say the least. To be compared with the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning so early in one’s career is certainly an achievement. Moreover, he possesses the skills to back up all the terror around him, having led the Chiefs to three Super Bowls.
Mahomes brilliance cannot be compared to any other quarterback in the league. He does things that are unimaginable regularly. Even in the recently concluded Super Bowl LV, Mahomes was releasing the ball from extremely awkward positions while being hounded by the Buccaneers’ defense.
Many critics and analysts believe that Patrick Mahomes will become one of the greatest players of the modern era. So far, he is certainly on the right track to proving his supporters right.
#1. Lamar Jackson
Some players take careers to achieve what Lamar Jackson has managed to do at the age of 22. Already being considered as one of the most prolific quarterbacks of his generation, Lamar has single-handedly changed the fortunes of the Baltimore Ravens. He is also the youngest recipient of the most coveted individual awards in the league
In the 2019 season, Jackson was simply unstoppable. He was a constant threat and suppressing him was a tough job for opposition defenses. That season, the Ravens had an impressive record of 14-2 which was the best in the league by a country mile.
Lamar Jackson is destined for greatness in the league. However, the performances of the Baltimore Ravens have not been satisfactory of late. This has led some people to believe that Jackson might be looking for greener pastures before the start of the upcoming season. Nonetheless, being the youngest recipient of the MVP is one hell of a resume that speaks for itself.
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