NFL rookies seem to come into the league more ready to play than ever before.
Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young was as advertised coming out of Ohio State, as he wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines from day one last year.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was equally as impressive once he got his chance to start, and looks to be a star in the making.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson gave fans of the team immediate hope that a world without Stefon Diggs might not be as painful as they had imagined.
As impressive as last year’s rookies were, and as polished as many first-year players come in these days, it’s hard to picture any player winning NFL MVP in their first professional season.
However, it has been accomplished in NFL history once before, and we’ll take a closer look at that magical campaign.
Jim Brown, 1957
The only rookie ever to win NFL MVP was Hall of Fame Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown.
As a 21-year-old during the 1957 season, Brown ran all over the league, and took home the honor in his first NFL campaign.
Brown’s numbers may not seem all that eye-popping today.
In 1957, he rushed for 942 yards, nine touchdowns on the ground, and caught another 16 passes through the air.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the NFL regular season only consisted of 12 games back then.
Extrapolating his pace over a more traditional 16 game season, Brown would have ended up with over 1,200 yards on the ground.
In an era where the ground game was the focal point of attack, Brown’s exploits proved to be supremely valuable to the Browns that season.
Cleveland went 9-2-1 in the regular season, and won their division.
ABS honors #BlackHistoryMonth
Today’s showcase player: Jim Brown
Drafted 6th overall by the Cleveland Browns in 1957, Brown was a four sport athlete at Syracuse. He is the only man to average 100 rushing ypg over his entire career. He was inducted into 3 HOFs #SB53 pic.twitter.com/SD2DSmCOwD
— The Association for the Business of Sports (@OhioStateABS) February 3, 2019
They ended up making it to the NFL championship game that year (this was pre-Super Bowl), and were ousted by the Detroit Lions.
— CleWest (@erjmanlasvegas) March 22, 2020
Jim Brown would go on to have more prodigious statistical seasons in the NFL later in his career, but it was clear from the very beginning that his unique combination of power and speed would be a force to be reckoned with for many years.
The ”Youngest MVP”
While Brown’s 1957 campaign checks the boxes for many a trivia question, there’s a technicality that often prevents this information from being brought up more prominently.
The Associated Press has been the chief sponsor of the award since 1961, which doesn’t include Brown’s rookie year.
As such, a lot of fans and historians only consider the Associated Press’ MVP from that season forward, which distinguishes the award as an honor bestowed by a hallowed sports media company.
If we’re judging MVP’s solely in the Associated Press era, then the youngest NFL MVP would be quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Jackson also used his legs, in addition to his arm, to author one of the most dynamic seasons an offensive player has ever had in the NFL.
When Jackson won the award for his production during the 2019 campaign, he was just a shade over 23 years old.
— Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) July 9, 2021