The NFL announced on Thursday that Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson has won the “Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Year” award.
“There were so many talented players in this rookie class, so it’s quite an honor for me to be named the 2022 Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Year,” Hutchinson said via press release. “Considering some of the past Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Year winners, taking home this award feels surreal, and I want to thank all the fans who believed in me and voted for me. It is amazing to see the support from fans week after week, and I am ready to start the offseason and get out there for an even better season next year.”
To be clear, this is not the same thing as the Defensive Rookie of the Year award that is given out at the NFL Honors event and is voted on by the Associated Press. This, instead, is an award voted on by the fans.
However, it is still pretty impressive that Hutchinson won the award for all rookies, not just defensive rookies. It shows the online presence and passion that Lions fan have, pushing Hutchinson over the edge of players in bigger markets like New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner. Of course, it’s always possible that Gardner split the vote with Jets receiver Garrett Wilson, but Lions fans still deserve a hefty pat on the back for this one.
And it’s not like Hutchinson didn’t earn the honors, either. Hutchinson finished the season leading all rookies with 9.5 sacks to go with his three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Only one other player in NFL history produced a stat line like that—Hall of Famer Richard Dent:
.@Lions DL @aidanhutch97 is the first @NFL player to produce a season with 9.5 sacks, 3 INTs & 2 FRs since Hall of Fame DE Richard Dent in 1990.— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) January 9, 2023
Hutchinson and Dent are the only DLs in NFL history to produce such a season.#OnePride pic.twitter.com/79IFesdAyT
Hutchinson also saw his play dramatically improve as the season went on, rounding out his decent pass rush with stiff and disciplined run defense. Since Week 11, Hutchinson produced an 89.6 PFF grade, good for third best among all NFL edge defenders.
By winning the Pepsi Rookie of the Year award, Hutchinson will be awarded a trophy and a free cruise. As for the Defensive Rookie of the Year, that will be announced later on Thursday during the NFL Honors, which will air at 9 p.m. ET on NBC and NFL Network.