Award frenzy in 49erland

The 49ers handed out all their top team awards on Wednesday, and here's a look at each and every winner, with the reason they were selected and a brief synopsis of what they have contributed to the team in 2008.

A quick summary of the individual honors:

In his first season with the 49ers, wide receiver Isaac Bruce won the Len Eshmont Award, defensive lineman Justin Smith was chosen as the winner of the Bill Walsh Award, center Eric Heitmann was named winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award for the third consecutive year, linebacker Takeo Spikes won the Hazeltine/Iron Man Award and wide receiver Dominique Zeigler won the Thomas Herrion Memorial Award.

Here's a look at the award winners.

Year with team: First What the award means: The team's most prestigious individual honor is voted on by players and given each year to the 49er who best exemplifies inspirational and courageous play.
Why he won the award: To the outside observer, Bruce seems an unlikely choice because of his reserved nature and newcomer status to the team. But he brought stoicism and quiet inspiration to the team and locker room and players looked up to him as an accomplished, future Hall of Famer who led by example and was willing to help mentor the young players around him. Bruce becomes the first wide receiver to win the award since Jerry Rice in 1993 and the first player to win the award in his first season with the team since Tony Parrish won the award in his inaugural season of 2002.
Key statistics: Bruce leads the 49ers in receptions (52), receiving yards (766), receiving touchdowns (6) and his 14.7 average per catch is the best on the team for anyone with more than 10 receptions. Bruce now has 14,875 yards receiving and needs 60 yards to move past Tim Brown (14,934) into second place on the NFL's all-time receiving list. He also has 994 career receptions and needs just six more to become the fifth player in NFL history with 1,000 career receptions.
Quote to note: "Anytime you have someone with the amount of credibility that Isaac Bruce has, and the amount of consistency … and he's continuing to try and learn, continuing to perfect his craft. That's a true professional, and I'm really thankful that when you have guys like that in the locker room, it makes your job as a coach that much better." – 49ers coach Mike Singletary
Last year's winner: DL Bryant Young, who won the honor each of the last four seasons and seven times in the last 10 years.

Year with team: First What the award means: Voted on by coaches, the award is given annually to the 49ers team MVP, honoring his outstanding individual performance.
Why he won the award: Smith has become a defensive stalwart in his first year with the team, providing a nonstop motor along San Francisco's revamped defensive line and giving the 49ers flexibility with what they can do with their defensive fronts. He has displayed consistency as one of the team's most productive players throughout the season.
Key statistics: Leads team with 51 quarterback pressures, is second on team with five sacks and fourth with 86 tackles. Also has one of the team's 11 interceptions and three passes defensed.
Quote to note: "I'm honored, humbled. I'm just glad I get to play with these guys. I mean, it's a great group of guys – probably one of the easiest locker rooms I've been in to get along with people. Everyone is here for one reason and that's to try to win football games. I think we have a lot of stuff to build on, especially some of the things we have been doing defensively in the past five or six weeks." – Justin Smith
Last year's winner: CB Nate Clements and LB Patrick Willis

Year with team: Seventh
What the award means: Given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best exemplifies the dedication, excellence and commitment of offensive line coach Bobb McKittrick, a five-time Super Bowl champion who coached the San Francisco line from 1979-1999 and was considered one of the greatest line coaches of his era.Why he won the award: Heitmann has had another stellar season as the anchor of San Francisco's offensive line and arguably was worthy of Pro Bowl consideration. This may have been Heitmann's best season as he has completely adapted to the center position after switching permanently from guard during the 2005 season.
Key statistics: Heitmann, who has won the award each of the past three seasons, becomes the first three-time winner of the honor and is the only player in the 27-year history of the award to win the honor in consecutive seasons.
Quote to note: "(The award)'s been great, and it's appreciated very much. The offensive line – I think we've really jelled as a unit. We've done a lot to really upgrade our positions inside and we're playing better." – Eric Heitmann
Last year's winner: Eric Heitmann

Year with team: First What the award means: Named after a 13-year 49er who played more seasons at linebacker than any other San Francisco player and was known for his durability and dedication, this honor is given annually to the team's most courageous and inspirational defensive player.
Why he won the award: Spikes has emerged as one of the team's intense veteran leaders on defense in his first year with the team. Spikes didn't enter the starting lineup until the fourth week of the season, but he has developed into one of the team's top defenders and leads the 49ers in interceptions and is second in tackles.
Key 2008 statistic: Spikes is tied for the team lead with Nate Clements with three interceptions and his 106 tackles are second on the team to Patrick Willis' 159. He's also tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles and is seventh with five quarterback pressures and seventh with four passes defensed.
Quote to note: "It's a big honor. I didn't realize what I've won until it was explained to me just because of the reason that comes behind it. The long hours, the long days that I spend here at the facility on a consistent basis, for it not to go unnoticed, that's what I'm more proud of."
Last year's winner: Jeff Ulbrich

Year with team: Second, first on 53-man roster
What the award means: The honor is presented each season to a rookie or first-year player that best represents the dream of Thomas Herrion, an undrafted free agent who passed away after a preseason game in 2005. The award goes to a player, like Herrion, who has taken advantage of every opportunity, turned it into a positive situation and made their dream turn into a reality.
Why he won the award: Zeigler, who made a positive impression while toiling on the 49ers' practice squad all of his rookie season last year and during the first eight games of the season this year, finally got his shot on the 53-man roster at midseason and worked his way onto the field in multi-receiver packages, where he has made an impact with several key receptions.
Key 2008 statistics: Has the team's top average per reception at 19.7 yards on his five catches, including receptions of 31, 30 and 22 yards.
Last year's winner: CB Tarell Brown

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