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Lions DT Suh's stellar season rewarded with AP rookie honor

When Ndamukong Suh heard people call him the best player available in the draft, he didn't gloat. He took it as a challenge.

"It was something to live up to," Suh said.

Did he ever.

The Detroit Lions tackle won The Associated Press 2010 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, announced exclusively Friday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access."

The only rookie on the All-Pro team, Suh validated Detroit's selection of him with the second overall pick in last April's draft. He received 48 votes from a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league. New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty drew the other two votes.

"It's a tremendous honor," Suh told "NFL Total Access" after the award was announced. "Obviously, the press has really understood that I've played hard, I've been able to play with my teammates and learn a lot from them, because they're a big part of, one of the reasons why I was able to take this award home, and it's a true honor to be able to be recognized like this."

The Lions won their final four games to finish 6-10, triple the number of victories they managed the previous two seasons combined. Suh was a major reason with 10 sacks, the most at the position, veteran or rookie, and 66 tackles.

"We didn't learn how to finish games and overcome mistakes until the end of the year," Suh told The AP. "But we figured it out, and I think our four-game winning streak is definitely something for us to build on going into next season."

Suh is the first Lion to receive the honor since Al Baker in 1978. He's the first non-linebacker to win since Julius Peppers in 2002.

Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has been coaching for four decades, nearly three of them in the NFL, and when he's impressed by a player, it carries some impact -- sort of like when Suh bull-rushes offensive linemen and knocks them clear to the ground.

"There are so many plays that he's made that I just marvel at," Cunningham said. "We were talking about somebody else in the league as a defensive tackle, and as we're watching tape ... I stopped the tape. I said, 'Now, how many guys could do this?'

On NFL Network
Watch "NFL Total Access" (7 p.m. ET) during Super Bowl week for the exclusive reveal of The Associated Press' NFL player and coach awards.

Monday: Defensive Player of the Year

Tuesday: Offensive Player of the Year

Wednesday: Coach of the Year

Friday: Offensive Rookie of the Year

( Sam Bradford), Defensive Rookie of the Year ( Ndamukong Suh)

Saturday: Comeback Player of the Year (TBA)

Sunday: Most Valuable Player (TBA)

"He cleaned the right guard's clock on a pass rush."

Suh cleaned so many clocks that he won a starting berth in the Pro Bowl, which he skipped after undergoing shoulder surgery. Considering what he achieved despite the injury, imagine what might be ahead for the only defensive player to win the AP's College Player of the Year award.

"I just like playing with violence," Suh told "NFL Total Access." "It's something I've always been kind of brought up and told how to play -- and playing with great effort -- and that's something I want to continue to do, and that's something I think that's an advantage to my game."

Suh told The AP: "I was fortunate to be able to grasp my role in our scheme and to flourish in it. I'm just going to keep working hard to improve, because I'll never be satisfied."

McCourty, selected 27th overall in April, started from the beginning of the season and was a playmaker all season for the Patriots, who went 14-2 with a rebuilt defense. McCourty made seven interceptions while often handling the opposition's top receiver.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, taken first overall last spring, won the offensive rookie honor Friday. It's the first time that the top two picks won the rookie awards since 1981, when New Orleans Saints running back George Rogers and New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor did so.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) rushes during an NFL football game between the between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

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