Quinnen Williams was determined to erase -- make that obliterate -- any doubts about his ability to dominate in the heart of the Jets' defensive line. His personal blueprint for success began before the start of his fourth season in the NFL.
"This offseason I took it upon myself," Williams said. "I wanted to do better and one of those things was nutrition and endurance. I got a plan down from the conditioning staff, and I'm sticking to it. I feel like I came into camp in the best shape of my career. And I think I did.
"I had these two machines, a ski machine and the rowing machine. Those two things are the fiercest two machines, I was like I am dying on these machines. It was just fun being able to get in shape like I wanted to be. It was hard. Nutrition-wise it's good and healthy, I'm eating more vegetables, different varieties."
He's also been gorging on the opposition as No. 95, the No. 3 overall selection out of Alabama in the 2019 NFL Draft, has emerged as "one of the best players in football," in the words of head coach Robert Saleh.
And his dominating play, a résumé that includes (through 14 games) a career-high 12 sacks, 24 QB hits, a pair of strip sacks and 3 pass defenses behind the line of scrimmage earned Williams the votes of his teammates and the 2022 Curtis Martin Team MVP Award.
"I think really right now, he's probably playing as dominant as any defensive player, not just defensive linemen, in this league," DC Jeff Ulbrich said.
Williams last week was named to the Pro Bowl as a starter for the event in Las Vegas in early February.
"I'm just thankful to everybody on my team, everybody in the organization, because if it weren't for those guys, I would be nothing," Williams said.
Though Williams missed the Jets' game against Detroit after sustaining a calf injury the previous week at Buffalo, he has been a rock in the center of a talented and deep defensive line. Before the Week 17 game at Seattle, he was tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks and was the leader among interior linemen -- a group that includes players like the Chiefs' Chris Jones and the Rams' Aaron Donald.
"Yeah, him [Donald], Chris Jones, Quinnen, they're three of the most dominant interior defensive linemen in the game today, in my opinion," Saleh said. "They're hard to block, and they do it in different ways. Chris has amazing length and wiggle to him, Aaron Donald is obviously quick in short-area space and explosive, and Quinnen is just pure brute strength. So, Quinnen is up there with the best of them, for sure."
In addition to his sacks, two of which came in the first quarter and a half at Buffalo before the calf injury, his QB hits are tied for sixth in the league and are the most for a Green & White player since Leonard Williams had 25 in 2017. Williams has two regular-season games left to match the team record (since the stat was first tracked in 2001) of 28 QB hits set by Muhammed Wilkerson in 2015.
A key for any defense in the NFL has always been its ability to notch takeaways, and in that statistic, Williams has done his part for the Jets this season. In the victory at Green Bay in October, he had a strip sack of QB Aaron Rodgers. He repeated that feat on Jacksonville's first drive in a Thursday night game, a strip that was recovered by DE Carl Lawson.
"This award means a lot to me because of all the hard work I put in this offseason, all the things I do," Williams to Ethan Greenberg of nyjets.com. I never look at myself as an MVP, I just do what I can do to help this team win. And for the guys to vote me MVP, I mean I voted for Quincy [Williams], C.J. [Mosley] and JFM [John Franklin-Myers]. It's not just me on the field and for the guys to honor me … it's an amazing award to get."
Asked about the impact and importance of being recognized by his teammates, Williams said: "Your teammates know how hard you work, they're going to keep you grounded or in line, and hold you to a standard of accountability. What my teammates feel about me is a big thing for me."
Williams is the Jets' 12th defensive player to win the award in the past 14 seasons and it's the fifth straight year that a defensive player has won the Team MVP (the others were Jamal Adams, twice; Marcus Maye; and Mosley). Williams is also the youngest (25 years, 25 days) to capture the MVP award since Leonard Williams in 2016.
Finally, the Curtis Martin Team MVP Award completes a unique trifecta: Quinnen Williams' won the Marty Lyons (Community Service) and Kyle Clifton (Good Guy) awards last year.
"I go into every game wanting to win and give my best," Williams said. "So no matter what happens or not, depending on nobody or not, knowing what the outcome's going to be or not, I'm just giving my best each and every down, no matter what, in each and every game we have left."
Ulbrich added: "The more production you have, the better you're playing, the more you're going to get the turn, you're going to get the chip, you're going to get the double teams and you're seeing that, but at the same time, you're seeing Quinnen, as much as we try to schematically free him up and get him on-on-ones at times, he's still winning. He's still winning the double teams. He's having a great year. He's having a fantastic year."
And now he's the well-deserved Curtis Martin Team MVP.
See the best images of the 2022 Curtis Martin Team MVP
Six other team awards were also announced Friday:
C.J. Mosley – Dennis Byrd/Most Inspirational
The veteran linebacker – last year's Curtis Martin Team MVP Award winner – captured his second straight team award, providing leadership and inspiration in a young and rejuvenated Jets defense that has risen from the bottom of the league, statistically, to one of the best units in the NFL.
"There is no human within this game that works as hard as he does and is as consistent as he is and means as much to a defense as he does," Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said.
Mosley is the 11th defensive player in the past 11 seasons to capture the Byrd Award and Mosley is the first linebacker since Demario Davis, who split the honor with DL Steve McLendon in 2017.
The award is named for Dennis Byrd, the Jets DL who sustained a paralyzing on-field injury in 1992. It was created that year and Byrd was named the first recipient. Byrd overcame his paralysis and co-authored an inspirational autobiography, "Rise Up and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd," less than a year later. He was killed in a car crash in his native Oklahoma in 2016.
Alijah Vera-Tucker & Quinnen Williams – Kyle Clifton/Good Guy
Vera-Tucker and Williams shared the Clifton Good Guy Award as voted on by the Jets staff in honor of the Green & White's 13-year linebacker. The award was split for the fourth time since it was first awarded in 1996.
Vera-Tucker showcased his versatility, playing LT, RT and RG over the first 7 weeks. He is the first offensive linemen to win the award since T Austin Howard in 2012.
Williams won multiple awards for the second consecutive year and is the first back-to-back winner of the Clifton since DE Foley Fatukasi, who won it in 2019 and 2020.
Vinny Curry — Ed Block Courage/Most Courageous Player
Curry returned to the field after he received a diagnosis from team doctors of a rare blood disorder that required the removal of his enlarged spleen in July 2021. Curry tried to return last season, but he developed a blood clot, was put on blood thinners and prohibited to engage in physical activity.
Curry made his debut this season against the Green Bay Packers in Week 6 and has appeared in 10 games, tallying 12 tackles. He is the first defensive linemen to win the award since Muhammad Wilkerson in 2016 and the fifth since the award was created in 1984.
S Ashtyn Davis won the award last year, which annually goes to a player by a vote of his teammates on each of the NFL's 32 teams in honoring players who exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.
Solomon Thomas – Marty Lyons/Community Service
Thomas co-founded The Defensive Line, a nonprofit corporation that is centered on helping young people to communicate about mental health. The foundation was created after Thomas' sister, Ella, committed suicide in 2018. His work also earned him the Jets nomination for Walter Payton Man of the Year.
"Such an amazing human being," HC Robert Saleh said. "He's always team first, very thoughtful about people around him. I can't say enough about Solly. Obviously, we drafted him in San Francisco, so we're probably a little biased, but his character not just as a football player, but as a human being and how he cares for the next human next to him, he's awesome and deserving of that recognition."
Thomas is the fourth consecutive defensive player to win the Lyons award, following Matthias Farley in 2019 and '20 and Quinnen Williams last year.
The award is named after Lyons, the former Jets first-round draft pick, member of the "New York Sack Exchange," Ring of Honor member, current Jets radio analyst, and a longtime proponent of community service through his foundation.
Garrett Wilson — Bill Hampton/"Rookie Who Acts Like a Pro"
Wilson, the No. 10 selection in April's NFL Draft, burst onto the scene in his first season, breaking the Jets franchise rookie records for yards and receptions. The Ohio State product also became to the first Jets rookie to register two games with multiple receiving touchdowns.
"The Hamp," named after the Jets' late equipment manager and voted on by the equipment staff and past award recipients, goes for the third straight year to a WR, after Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims claimed the honor last two years.
Duane Brown – Selfless Warrior
A new award this year, Brown is the winner of the Selfless Warrior voted on by the coaching staff for giving the most of himself for the team. Brown joins Alijah Vera-Tucker as this year's O-linemen to win awards. After injuring his shoulder during training camp, Brown considered surgery and missed the first four games on the IR before returning in Week 5. Since then, Brown has battled, starting 11 games without missing a snap.