NEW ORLEANS –After missing the entire 2011 season due to a neck injury, quarterback Demaryius Thomas returned to enjoy a record-setting seasonin 2012.
Saturday, the Associated Press recognized him as the NFL Comeback Player of the Year at the second annual NFL Honors held at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre in New Orleans.
"For me and my comeback, I feel very, very privileged to be back playing football again," Manning said after accepting the award at the NFL's 2nd annual NFL Honors award show. "After not playing for a year, I've certainly missed being out there with my teammates, being out there playing the game that I love."
Manning becomes just the second player in Broncos history to earn the award, joining quarterback Craig Morton, who earned the honor in 1977.
"It's been quite a year for me," Manning said before Denver's AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. "It's been like no other year I've ever been through."
The four-time NFL MVP endured multiple neck surgeries as his ironman streak of 208 consecutive regular-season games played came to an end in 2011.
Following his release from the Indianapolis Colts, Manning signed with the Broncos and began a season that Head Coach John Fox labeled as "historic" and "unprecedented."
"I remember one year ago I was in a hospital bed watching opening day, so there's a little reminder there of how far I've come," Manning reflected. "Certainly I have had those checkpoints along the way, reminders of where I was a year ago."
In his first season back from injury, Manning set franchise records in nearly every passing category. He now owns team records for completions (400), passing yards (4,659), completion percentage (68.6%), touchdowns (37) and passer rating (105.8). Manning was named to his 12th career Pro Bowl to set a record among quarterbacks.
The 15-year pro led the Broncos to 11 consecutive wins to end the regular season with a 13-3
record and earn the AFC's No. 1 playoff seed.
Manning earned a pair of AFC Offensive Player of the Month Awards, taking home the honors for October and December. He continued his rise up the NFL's all-time record lists, passing Dan Marino for the second-most wins by a starting quarterback and overtaking Brett Favre for the most career games with at least three touchdown passes.
"I think it's pretty historical, to be honest with you," Fox said of Manning's season. "To come back after the injury he had, the residual of the injury he had, it takes a special guy. To come to a new team, new teammates, new city — everything about it new other than the conference — it's pretty amazing, actually."
For Manning, the award also recognizes the time and effort spent by doctors and trainers that assisted his comeback.
"I'm grateful for all of the help and support that I've received throughout the past couple offseasons getting me back out there onto the football field," Manning said. "I truly feel grateful."