Linebacker T.J. Edwards has been named the Bears' nominee for the 10th annual Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, which recognizes NFL players who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship on the field. Each NFL team nominates one player for the honor.
The award was created in 2014 in honor of the late founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Rooney Sr. It is presented each year to an NFL player who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
"This is really the first award I've received with this meaning behind it, so it's cool," Edwards said. "It's not something that I'm looking for. I enjoy the game and I enjoy being out there with my brothers that I go to work with every day. It all goes so fast. I'm just trying to be in the moment and have as much fun as I can.
"I try to go about my business the right way. I get to play the game that I love every day, and it's the biggest blessing in the world."
Edwards grew up cheering for the Bears in Lake Villa, Ill., which is located about 20 miles northwest of Halas Hall. After spending his first four NFL seasons with the Eagles, he signed a three-year contract with his hometown team and has excelled in his first year with the Bears.
Edwards became the first Bears player to record 110 tackles in the first 10 games of a season and leads the defense with 119 stops entering Week 12. He also has registered 2.0 sacks, five tackles-for-loss, one interception, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
"I've been a fan of the game for a long time," he said. "It's what I grew up on. That's what my Sundays looked like was sitting down and watching football and wanting to be here one day. I just really enjoy playing this game and want to do it as long as I can. I know that if I do the right things on and off the field that definitely increases my chances, for sure."
Edwards entered the NFL with the Eagles in 2019 as an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin and left following the 2022 season as the leading tackler for a team that went to the Super Bowl. He's continued to fill the same role with the Bears.
"He's a leader on this team," said general manager Ryan Poles. "I would define him by saying he's a guy that just does everything the right way, and that's why he's a perfect candidate for this award."
A panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community (Warrick Dunn, Larry Fitzgerald, Curtis Martin and Leonard Wheeler) will select eight finalists (four in the AFC and four in the NFC) from the 32 nominees. The eight finalists will be listed on the Pro Bowl ballot under the NFL Sportsmanship Award category when players vote in December.
The winner of the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award is determined by a vote of current NFL players. From the eight finalists, each team's players will submit a consensus vote of their choice for the winner. As in Pro Bowl voting, a team cannot vote for its own player.
The winner will be announced as part of NFL Honors and will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice.