Buccaneer running back Aaron Stecker (right) accepts the NFLEL Offensive MVP award from league President Bill Peterson
Last week, Buccaneers.com posted a story on Aaron Stecker entitled 'MVP?' You can now remove the question mark.
On Thursday, Stecker, a first-year running back allocated to the NFL Europe League by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was named Offensive MVP of that league's 2000 season, beating out high-profile QB Danny Wuerffel. Stecker, one of six Bucs to participate in the NFLEL season this spring and summer, paced the league in rushing yards and combined yards and finished second in total touchdowns, leading the Scottish Claymores to the league's championship game.
Scotland and the Rhein Fire will square off in World Bowl 2000 on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. EDT. The Bucs will be represented on both sides of the field, as CB Deshone Mallard was a top defender for the Fire, which finished with the league's best record at 7-3.
Stecker received his award on Thursday during the World Bowl's media day in Frankfurt's Waldstadion, where the game will be played. "This is a tremendous honor for me," said Stecker. "I could not have accomplished what I did without a great offensive linemen in front of me and great teammates. Now it's up to us to finish the season with a championship."
With his teammates' help, Stecker was the league's most productive running back from the beginning of the NFLEL's 10-game schedule to the end. He finished with 774 rushing yards, far outdistancing Rhein's Pepe Pearson, who was second with 486 yards. Stecker averaged 4.4 yards per carry and scored almost twice as many rushing touchdowns, 7, as the next player on the chart, Barcelona's Terry Battle (4). Overall, Stecker scored 11 times, one behind Rhein's Kevin Drake, who caught 12 TD passes.
"We're real excited for Aaron, and proud of him," said Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy, upon learning of Stecker's award. "When he went over, we thought he had a chance to do real well, but being MVP of the league is something special. We're all very excited over here."
After gaining just 30 yards but scoring two touchdowns in the Claymores' season opener against Amsterdam, Stecker was not held to less than 52 yards the rest of the way. He topped the century mark twice, gaining 127 yards at Berlin in Week Three and 110 at Rhein in Week Five. Stecker also scored in eight of the Claymores' 10 games.
Wuerffel was considered Stecker's prime competition for the Offensive MVP award after throwing a team-record 25 touchdown passes for the Fire and leading the league with 2,042 passing yards. Stecker, however, was the top choice of the league's coaches, who voted on the NFLEL season awards, because he was indispensable to the Scotland offense. In addition to his rushing prowess, the former Western Illinois standout also led the Claymores in receptions with 36.
The league also announced its All-NFL Europe League Team on Thursday, which obviously included Stecker. It also included Mallard, who tied for third in the league with three interceptions and added 51 tackles and 10 passes defensed for the Rhein defense. After competing in Saturday's championship game, Stecker and Mallard will rejoin the Buccaneers in time for the team's training camp, which opens on July 23.
Stecker first joined the Buccaneers on October 20, added to the practice squad after RB Autry Denson left that unit to join the Miami Dolphins. Stecker finished the season on the Bucs' practice squad after starting the year in the Chicago Bears' training camp. Mallard signed with Tampa Bay on January 25, immediately after the conclusion of the Bucs' 1999 season. He had originally signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999 as a rookie free agent out of Southern Mississippi.