BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – The Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s 2018 Headliner of the Year award goes to Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Brees received the most votes on a ballot that included a Masters golf champion, U.S. Senior Open golf champion, UFC World Heavyweight Champion, a first-team All-NBA player, the NBA Rookie of the Year, a record-setting major league third baseman, Butkus Award winner, record-setting NCAA defensive lineman, a vital cog in Clemson’s national championship football team and a world-record holding pole vaulter.
In October, Brees became the NFL’s career passing leader, passing Peyton Manning. Brees has passed Manning again, becoming the first individual to be named the Headliner of the Year three times. Brees received 21 first-place votes in tallying 133 points in voting conducted by members of the LSWA. New Orleans Pelicans’ star Anthony Davis was a distant second with 60 points.
Manning was the first honoree in 1999, and again in 2013. Brees previously was honored by the LSWA in 2009 and 2011. Brees joins the New Orleans Saints as the only three-time recipients.
Brees helped lead the Saints to a 13-3 regular-season and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Along the way, he set three NFL career passing records – passing yards (74,437), completions (6,586) and completion percentage (67.3). He also eclipsed 500 passing touchdowns and will enter the 2019 season with 520, 19 shy of tying Manning’s record.
For the season, Brees led the league in completion percentage (74.4) and passer rating (115.7), completing 364 of 489 passes for 3,992 yards and 32 touchdowns against 5 interceptions in 15 games as he sat out the season-finale against Carolina.
Brees’ record-breaking year stood out in a year full of standout performances by some of Louisiana’s greatest athletes.
Davis earned first-team All-NBA honors after averaging a career-high 28.1 points to go with 11.1 rebound and 2.3 blocks. He also became the Pelicans’ all-time scoring (10,603) and rebound leader (4,698) in 2018, and led the team to a first-round playoff sweep of the favored Portland Trail Blazers.
High school pole vault sensation Armand “Mondo” Duplantis of Lafayette was third in the voting, receiving four first-place votes and 56 points. Duplantis set an Under-20 World Record (6.05 meters) in the pole vault en route to winning the 2018 European Championships. He also won the World Junior Championships and the Class 5A state title for Lafayette High School at 5.93 meters. He is now a freshman at LSU.
Alex Bregman, who was the 2017 Headliner of the Year, finished fourth with 40 points. He became the first primary third baseman in Major League history with 30 home runs and 50 doubles in a season. At 24 years of age, the former LSU standout became the youngest player in Astros history with a 30-homer season. He finished the season hitting .286 with 31 homers, 51 doubles, 105 runs and 103 RBI. Bregman also was named the Astros’ team MVP, finished fifth in AL MVP voting and was named the MVP of the All-Star game.
Masters winner Patrick Reed was fifth in the voting with 30 points. The University High of Baton Rouge graduate won his first Masters by a shot over Rickie Fowler. Reed was also a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Rounding out the top 10 were UFC World Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier of Lafayette, LSU football coach Ed Orgeron, Saints receiver Michael Thomas, who led the NFL in receiving, Clemson running back Travis Etienne of Jennings and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.
Also receiving votes were Butkus Award winner Devin White of LSU, NBA Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons, the LSU Gymnastics team, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Aaron Nolan, Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson, who set the NCAA career sack record with 45, U.S. Senior Open golf champion David Toms, the LSU of Alexandria basketball team that finished as NAIA national runner-up, the LSU-Eunice baseball team that won its sixth Junior College national championship, and the New Orleans Pelicans.