Record-setting performances by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and American swimmer Jessica Hardy earned them selection as the United States Sports Academy’s December Athletes of the Month.
Brees broke the National Football League (NFL) record held since 1984 by Hall of Fame Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino for most total passing yards in a single season. Brees threw for 5,476 yards compared to Marino’s 27-year-old mark of 5,087. Brees, who led the NFL with 46 TD passes, set several other records, including the single-season completion percentage (71.2%), most completions in a season (468) and most career 5-TD games (7). Three times this season Brees threw for five touchdowns.
Jessica Hardy won the 100-meter breaststroke with the fastest swim the world has ever seen in a non-rubber swimsuit. The American swimmer clocked a 1:03.33 for the victory in the Duel in the Pool meet in Atlanta, which set an American record. She upset the current World Champion and American teammate Rebecca Soni. Hardy also was on the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay team that set an American record with a time of 3:28.46. In addition, she swam a new personal best in the 100-meter freestyle (52.55) and in the 50-meter freestyle her 24.18 race was the best American time of the year.
The public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and ballot voting processes. Visit the Academy website at ussa.edu to submit your nominations each month, and then return to the website between the first day and second Tuesday of each month to vote on the male and female Athletes of the Month. The votes along with the Academy’s selection committee choose the winners and they are announced on the Academy’s website and in the online edition of The Sport Update.
Finishing second in the men’s category was Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He broke the prestigious NFL passer-rating record. Rodgers finished the year with an NFL-leading 122.5 passer rating, a formula that includes completion percentage, average yards per attempt, percentage of passes resulting in TDs and percentage of interceptions. That’s better than the 121.1 passer-rating set by the Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning in 2004. For the year, Rodgers threw for 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns and completed 68.3% of his passes for Green Bay.
The runner up to Hardy on the women’s ballot was 16-year-old American Lexi Thompson. She made history as the youngest winner on both the LPGA and Ladies European Tours with her victory in the Dubai Ladies Masters. Thompson pulled away from Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa to win by four strokes for her second professional victory. In September, she became the youngest winner of an LPGA tournament at the Navistar LPGA Classic in Alabama.
Third place winners for December were Wayne Rooney, an Englishman who scored four goals in three games in December to lead Manchester United in the Premier League; and American skier Lindsey Vonn, who boosted her Alpine World Cup overall lead to 172 points this season in Lienz, Austria.
The winners of the Academy’s male and female Athletes of the Month will be considered as candidates for the 2012 Athlete of the Year ballot. In December 2012, the Academy will name the male and female Athlete of the Year for the 28th consecutive year. The recipients of this prestigious award are selected annually through worldwide online balloting hosted by the Academy in conjunction with USA Today and NBC Sports.
In 2011, the Male Athlete of the Year was No. 1-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic of Serbia and the Female Athlete of the Year was No. 1-ranked golfer Yani Tseng of Taiwan. Both of them dominated 2011’s ballot that drew as many as 50,000 votes a day from across the world.