By HAYES RULE (@Rule0021)
Photo credit goes to ESPN.
Football is exhilarating.
But it’s the personalities -- the players and storylines – that we as fans ultimately find a vested interest in, more so in the National Football League than at the collegiate level. We root for our favorite teams, but a player – the human element – is the catalyst that drives our love for football from healthy to addictive.
These 4.4-running, dime-throwing-people are just that -- people. Their actions both on and off the field determine their likability. And that’s why we’re here: We’re voting for the most likable player in the NFL.
Several greats have retired in the past few years, such as: Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, Jared Allen and Troy Polamalu. A new generation of players and personalities is developing, so who is and will be the easiest players to root for in the NFL?
My key characteristics for likability: both successful and interesting to watch on the field, someone fans enjoy rooting for and a (mostly) clean reputation off the field.
You can find Round 1 here: http://www.youngspeaknews.com/nfl/bracket-nfls-most-likable-player-round-1
And Round 2 here: http://www.youngspeaknews.com/nfl/bracket-nfls-most-likable-player-round-2
(1) Larry Fitzgerald vs. (13) Luke Kuechly
Cinderella has made her way to the our bracket, and she comes in the form of a 235-pound Pro Bowl linebacker. After shocking Aaron Rodgers in Round 1, Luke Kuechly defeated fellow linebacker Von Miller in Round 2.
Kuechly ranks right behind Watt as the best defensive player in the league as a force in the middle of Carolina's vaunted defense. He's a gritty, down-to-earth linebacker who handles his business like a true professional.
Fitzgerald is nearing the end of his career, one which has been defined by his professionalism on and off the field. As one of the best receivers in the game, he stayed with the Cardinals through difficult times and is now experiencing the payoff. FItzgerald easily defeated Odell Beckham Jr. in Round 1 and eked past Marcus Mariota in Round 2.
(3) Russell Wilson vs. (7) Cam Newton
Russell Wilson has abundant fanboys, but he also has a surprising amount of haters. Whether it be for his outspoken faith or a belief that he is "fake," I don't agree with it. Wilson has all of the tools to be the most marketable player in the NFL: underdog story, success on the field, leader of a great team, good looks and clean off the field.
All of those marketable traits equate to his likability. I can't help but root for him, but maybe that's just me. Let your voice be heard: Are you a Wilson lover or a Wilson hater? He defeated Eli Manning with ease in the first round and snuck past the fiery Steve Smith in Round 2.
Cam Newton, 2015's MVP, was one of the most intriguing -- if not the most intriguing -- players in the NFL. His story is well-documented: He left the University of Florida after stealing a laptop and then accepted money to play at Auburn.
He has had no off-field issues in the NFL, but it's his antics -- most notably, his touchdown celebrations -- that stir controversy. Cam Newton loves to have fun and is a big personality (ala Rob Gronkowksi), and he's not afraid to let you know when he tormented your defense. It's up to you to decide: Do you like Newton's personality and swagger? Newton barely eked past Eric Berry in Round 1 and shocked J.J. Watt in Round 2.
It turns out people love quarterbacks after all.