This was kind of a tough one. The bigger, more important Awards typically are. Here are the nominees...
Rajon Rondo - PG, Boston Celtics
Marc Savard - C, Boston Bruins
Wes Welker - WR, New England Patriots
Tom Brady - QB, New England Patriots
Jon Lester - SP, Boston Red Sox
Kevin Youkilis - SP, Boston Red Sox
And the winner is...
Bittersweet as I write this, because there will likely be no Wes Welker at all in 2010. He won this Award last year, but it looks doubtful that there'll be a three-peat.
I remember watching a Patriots/Dolphins game on October 10, 2004. A guy named Wes Welker returned 5 kickoffs, 5 punts (for 41 yards), kick a field, and an extra point. And I thought to myself "This is Bill Belichick's dream player right here, a receiver who plays special teams and can kick in a pinch." And that dream eventually became reality.
Welker was outstanding for the Patriots this season. Clearly the 2nd most important member of the team behind Tom Brady, if not the most important. What he does to get open, and what he does after the catch is nothing short of extraordinary. Nobody moves the way he moves. He's one of a kind, a freak of nature. And that is why he won this Award for Athlete of the Year.