Another Eshmont for Young; Gore, Harris MVPs

Be it ever so humble, there is no honor like the Len Eshmont Award for venerable 49ers defensive stalwart Bryant Young. "That award is near and dear to me," Young said Wednesday, "and it humbles me at this point in my career that I'm still getting it." Frank Gore and Walt Harris know the feeling. They shared the Bill Walsh Award as team co-MVPS as the 49ers announced their 2006 season awards.

There's no denying that Gore, the second-year running back, and Harris, the 11th-year veteran in his first season with the 49ers, were worthy of team MVP honors as voted on by San Francisco coaches.

They were two of the 49ers' premier players throughout the season, and both received Pro Bowl recognition when team rosters were announced Tuesday.

Gore - the NFC's leading rusher with 1,491 yards - was named the NFC's starting running back for the Feb. 10 game in Hawaii, and Harris was named a first alternate at cornerback. Harris leads the NFC with six interceptions and also leads the 49ers with 13 passes defensed and five forced fumbles.

But the team's most prestigious honor, as voted on by teammates, once again landed in the hands of Young, the longest-tenured player on the team who now is completing his 13th season with the 49ers.

Young won the Eshmont for a record seventh time, capturing the honor for the third year in a row. He also won the award in 1996 and had another three-year run from 1998-2000. He is the only player to win the honor more than twice in the 50-year history of the award.

Young says winning the award a seventh time means as much as winning it the first time.

"It really does, because the people voting on it are my teammates," Young said. "There are so many other people that are deserving of it. I'm just kind of taken aback that they chose me. So, it's important to me that I'm able to exemplify the things that they're looking for in a veteran guy."

The Eshmont Award is given to the player who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team. Eshmont, who coached at Navy and Virginia following his career in San Francisco, died in 1957. The award was established that year.

Young also was the winner of the Bill Walsh Award when it first was introduced after the 2004 season. Like last year, when kicker Joe Nedney and linebacker Derek Smith were co-winners, the award was split between an offensive player and defensive player.

"Who votes on that?" Gore asked early Wednesday while he answered questions about receiving yet another award.

When told it was San Francisco coaches who bestowed the latest honor upon him, Gore said, "I'm happy about that. I'm happy to accept all the awards. But I'm going to keep working and try to be the best that I can and keep trying to do the same things each year and be consistent so I (remain) happy."

Other 49ers honored Wednesday were linebacker Brandon Moore as the Hazeltine Iron Man Award winner and center Eric Heitmann as the Bobb McKittrick Award winner. Moore, who has been an impact player since entering the regular starting lineup in Week 9, already has set career highs with team-leading totals of 94 tackles and 6.5 sacks with two games still remaining in the season.

"It's a sign of dedication, toughness hard work and all those things," coach Mike Nolan said of Moore's award, which is given annually to the team's most courageous and inspirational defensive player.

The Hazeltine Award is named for linebacker/center Matt Hazeltine, a 13-year performer who played more seasons at linebacker than any other 49ers player. Known for his durability and dedication, Hazeltine passed away in 1987 from ALS and Bill Walsh established the award in his honor that year.

Heitmann, San Francisco's steadiest offensive lineman this season, won the McKittrick Award for the first time. Heitmann had participated in every offensive snap over the past two seasons before breaking his right tibia in last week's victory at Seattle.

The McKittrick Award was established in 1999 in honor of the 49ers longtime offensive line coach. The award is given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by McKittrick during his 21 years of service with the 49ers before he died of cancer in 2000.


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