April 14, 2009 – WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, April 16, Baltimore Ravens quarterbackJoe Flaccoand 15 other of the NFL's biggest heroes will be honored at the NFL PLAYERS Gala featuring the JB Awards, an annual awards presentation hosted by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to benefit Special Olympics DC.
For the sixth consecutive year, the NFLPA and NFL PLAYERS, its licensing and marketing arm, have partnered with James Brown of CBS Sports "The NFL Today" to recognize NFL players for their individual contributions to their communities with the JB Awards. As in years past, award winners will participate in a panel discussion and will mingle with guests prior to the dinner. These honored players from around the National Football League will also join local Special Olympics athletes for a football clinic, an annual event held the morning of the Gala.
Stepping into the role of starting quarterback as a rookie may be one of the toughest tasks in the NFL, but Flacco made it look easy in 2008. After starting in the season opener for the Baltimore Ravens, Flacco went on to lead the team to an 11-5 record and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
He was named the 2008 Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year after starting every game this past season, throwing for 2,971 yards, 14 touchdowns and establishing a passer rating of 80.3. He also ran for 180 yards, two touchdowns and pulled in a 43-yard reception.
Flacco won over teammates with his strong arm, calm demeanor and execution under pressure. Fans have taken to calling the unflappable rookie "Joe Cool," and he confirmed the nickname when he helped the Ravens upset the top-seeded Tennessee Titans on the road in the playoffs. With the divisional game against the Titans tied at 10 in the fourth quarter, Flacco led a 51-yard drive that set up a game-winning field goal with under a minute remaining.
Flacco was the 18th-overall pick out of Delaware, the highest any Blue Hen has ever been drafted. After transferring from Pittsburgh his sophomore year, Flacco set 20 Delaware records in just two years of play. As a senior, he was named a first-team All-American and led the Blue Hens to the Football Championship Subdivision national title game.
Flacco became involved with the Baltimore chapter of Special Olympics during his first season in the area and recently attended the 16th annual United Way/NFL Players Weekend. More than 20 players participated in the weekend's community service events, which included local hospital visits, a youth clinic, a celebrity auction and a bowling tournament.
The funds raised from the weekend support United Way's initiatives of education, income and health.
This year's JB Award honorees are: