Casey Hayward. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Cornerback Casey Hayward was named the Chargers team MVP and Defensive Player of the Year on Thursday as the season counted down to perhaps the Bolts’ last game in San Diego.

Hayward is a former high school quarterback out of Georgia who played defense at Vanderbilt. He was picked by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft and came to the Chargers this year.

He’s active on Twitter, with nearly 72,000 followers.

Also honored were Melvin Gordon (Offensive Player of the Year), Darrell Stuckey (Special Teams Player of the Year), Matt Slauson and Joey Bosa (co-Linemen of the Year) and Brandon Mebane (Most Inspirational Player).

Sunday’s game against Kansas City will feature the return of former Helix High School star Alex Smith, the Chiefs’ quarterback.

Smith told the Kansas City Star ” “It’s going to be strange and sad if the Chargers left, for me personally, and the community growing up there. I’m getting ready to play a game there, so it’s not on the forefront of my mind, but definitely sad.”

Chiefs defensive lineman Kendall Reyes, who spent his first four seasons with the Chargers, said: “I feel for all the guys out ther. I’m still close with a lot of my (old) teammates. I’m sure you can ask the guys on the Rams — it’s not easy picking up and moving your family somewhere.

“It would be crazy if there’s no more (team in) San Diego.”

The Star noted that Chargers spent last season in limbo and “seemed inspired in their final home game, a 24-point victory over the Dolphins. Afterward, players and coach Mike McCoy remained on the field to sign autographs. Quarterback Philip Rivers signed his cleats and gave them to fans, walking into the locker room shoeless.”

The Chargers provided these details on end-of-year awards:
2016 Most Valuable Player: Casey Hayward

The cornerback is only the third defensive player in the last 15 years to be named team MVP, joining Jamal Williams in 2008 and Eric Weddle in 2012.  Hayward is headed to his first career Pro Bowl as he leads the NFL in interceptions and passes defensed.

2016 Offensive Player of the Year (Rodney Culver Memorial Award): Melvin Gordon

Gordon became one of the NFL’s top running backs — three yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing on the year entering Week 17, carrying the ball 245 times for 10 touchdowns while catching 41 passes for 419 yards and another pair of scores.

2016 Defensive Player of the Year (David Griggs Memorial Award): Casey Hayward

Hayward has a league-leading seven interceptions, and tallied 52 tackles and 23 passes defensed through 15 games.

2016 Special Teams Player of the Year: Darrell Stuckey

For the third time in four years, the Chargers’ Special Teams captain takes home the honor.  Despite commanding constant double and triple teams as one of the top gunners in the NFL, Stuckey’s seven special teams tackles rank third on the team.

2016 co-Linemen of the Year: Matt Slauson, Joey Bosa

In his first year as a true center, Slauson, an eight-year veteran, brought toughness to the Bolts’ offensive line in 2016 as he becomes the first center to win the award since Nick Hardwick.

Slauson started every game this season as the Bolts have rushed for nearly 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns, while helping Philip Rivers pass for more than 4,100 yards and 31 scores.
The third overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Bosa leads all NFL rookies with 9.5 sacks.  The defensive end also has 42 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 42 pressures and 12 QB hits. Three times this season, Bosa has recorded multiple sacks in a game.

2016 Most Inspirational Player (Emil Karas Memorial Award): Brandon Mebane

Signed to a three-year contract in the opening hours of free agency, it didn’t take the veteran nose tackle long to emerge as the heart and soul of the Chargers defense. 

Voted a team captain in his first year in San Diego, Mebane appeared in 10 games before a biceps injury prematurely ended his campaign.  While he was a game-changer on the field, recording 35 tackles, 15 pressures, six QB hits, one sack and his first career interception, his leadership in the locker room proved invaluable. 

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