ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the final game of the season approaches, two Broncos were recognized by the local media for their outstanding contributions on and off the field.
The Pro Football Writers of America Denver chapter selects a recipient each year for two honors: the Demaryius Thomas Team MVP Award and the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award. On Thursday, cornerback Pat Surtain II and guard Dalton Risner were honored for those awards, respectively.
In recognition of his breakout season, cornerback Pat Surtain II was voted as the 2022 Demaryius Thomas Team MVP Award. This recognition was created to honor the life and legacy of former Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, and it is presented annually to a player who exemplifies Thomas' impact.
"When I think of Demaryius, I think of the quiet pursuit of excellence," ESPN's Jeff Legwold noted as he presented the award. "I guess that's very fitting that Pat Surtain is ... the second winner of the Demaryius Thomas Team MVP Award."
In just his second NFL season, Surtain has established himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the league. After locking down many of the best receivers in the NFL, Surtain was named a Pro Bowler and helped lead Denver's defense to an elite ranking.
"[It's] a big honor, man," Surtain said upon receiving the award. "First off, I'd just like to thank my teammates, my coaches, for pushing me every day to be the best person, best player I could be. Without them, who knows. It just goes to show the success I had this season. Just leading into the season, my goals — this is one of the goals I wanted to have, so it's an honor. Huge honor."
Surtain had an excellent rookie season in 2021, but the cornerback noted that he had higher expectations for himself this year. He understands that the sky is the limit for his performance, and if he continues to improve each season, all his goals will be attainable.
"I just set my goals down before the season," Surtain said. "I wrote down a few goals, individual goals I wanted to achieve, and obviously it came into fruition. There's still more to go, there's still more to improve on, but at the end of the day, I'm [proud] of the player I've become. Compared to Year 1, Year 2 [is] a night and day difference. So, it's an honor to get this recognition, to get these accolades at the end of the day. It's a blessing."
The 2022 Darrent Williams Good Guy Award, which is awarded each season to the Bronco that best embodies former Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams' dedication to showing kindness and integrity to the press, also went to a first-time winner: guard Dalton Risner.
Legwold said that while safety Justin Simmons and inside linebacker Alex Singleton also received heavy consideration for the award, Risner was chosen due to his enthusiasm, cooperation and honesty while interacting with the press during the 2022 season.
"First off, thank you guys so much," Risner said. "I appreciate that. It's a huge honor for me to receive this award. I know that it's been a tough year for all of us here in Broncos Country, but at the same time, there's things like this that sure do mean a lot. Thank you guys so much for your votes; it means a lot for me. I take this very seriously. Obviously, the game of football means a lot to me. I love being a Denver Bronco, I love being an offensive lineman and doing that type of work, but I also love being good to people, and I want you guys to know how much I appreciate you. I know as players and media, we won't always see eye to eye on everything, but at the end of the day, we sure do appreciate what you guys do here at the Denver Broncos. ... We all take pride in our work. I know you guys work extremely hard."
Risner noted that it is not just the award itself that means a lot, but also the person his name will now be forever linked to. Before his tragic passing, Williams exemplified what it means to be a Bronco — and to Risner, he was a role model for both his performance on the field and the way he treated others off the field.
"I didn't get to know [Williams], but I know that I watched the guy growing up," Risner said. "I watched every single Broncos game, and for me to hear about the type of man that he was amongst adversity really motivates me and reminds me of how important it is to be a great man not only in times of comfort and convenience, but also in times of trials and tribulations."
In the moments when the team's frustration was at its highest, Risner spoke with the press after every tough loss and gave thoughtful, honest responses.
He has embodied this courteous disposition since his first year in the league, and over the last four years the left guard has developed a strong relationship with the local media. Risner noted that his sociability has been a major part of his identity since childhood, and it remains a core value in his career.
"I just love people, man," Risner said. "That's why I feel like I've got a great relationship with ... multiple people here that I'm looking at today, is because I love people. And that's something that I've always valued, something that my mom instilled in me at a young age. … I'm not always perfect — I'll fall short plenty of times, as you guys have probably seen throughout my career — but ... I just value having relationships with people, because I think people are what matter."