Saquon Barkley, who finished second in the NFL with 1,307 rushing yards as a rookie with the New York Giants, earned the ESPY for best breakthrough athlete on Wednesday night at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
The Milwaukee Brewers‘ Christian Yelich, the Atlanta Hawks‘ Trae Young and tennis player Naomi Osaka, the reigning women’s singles champion at the US Open and the Australian Open, were the other nominees.
“I want to say thank you to God for blessing me with the opportunity to wake up every single day and play the sport I love and have impact on others,” Barkley said upon receiving the award. “I want to say thank you to the Giants organization for drafting me and taking a chance on me. I wouldn’t be able to play the sport I love without you guys also.”
Barkley was named the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by The Associated Press and also won the fan voting for the Pepsi Rookie of the Year.
Barkley also had a team-high 91 receptions — an NFL record for a rookie running back — for 721 yards, and his 2,028 yards from scrimmage led the league.
He was the third rookie in NFL history to have 2,000 scrimmage yards, joining Eric Dickerson in 1983 and Edgerrin James in 1999.
His six rushes of 50-plus yards this season were the most by a Giants player in a season since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Best Record-Breaking Performance
He won the award over Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, who became women’s basketball’s all-time leader in triple doubles; Golden State‘s Klay Thompson, who set the record for 3-pointers in a game with 14; and Matthew Boling, who set the high-school record in the 100 meters.
Brees broke Peyton Manning’s record of 71,940 career passing yards with a 62-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tre’Quan Smith in the second quarter of a 43-19 win over Washington in October.
The game was one of the best performances of his 18-year career, completing 23 of 26 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns. His completion percentage of 89.7 was a career best.
Brees is the unlikeliest of all-time great quarterbacks — just 6 feet tall, barely recruited out of high school, he fell to the San Diego Chargers in the second round of the NFL draft out of Purdue in 2001 and was doubted by most of the league when he became a free agent after a career-threatening shoulder injury in 2005.
Among the other notable winners:
Best NFL Player: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Best MLB Player: Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
Best NHL Player: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Best College Athlete: Zion Williamson, Duke
Best Coach: Jim Calhoun
Best WNBA Player: Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Best Male Golfer: Brooks Koepka
Best Female Golfer: Brooke Henderson
Best Female Tennis Player: Serena Williams
Best Male Tennis Player: Roger Federer
Best Driver: Kyle Busch
Best International Women’s Soccer Player: Sam Kerr
Best International Men’s Soccer Player: Lionel Messi
Best MLS Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Best MMA Fighter: Daniel Cormier
Best Upset: Andy Ruiz Jr. defeats Anthony Joshua
Best Comeback: St. Louis Blues