LIONS INSIDER

Nate Burleson and Dominic Raiola round out player-voted honors

Posted Jan 14, 2014

Burleson was voted the Mike Utley Spirit Award winner and Raiola was given the Joe Schmidt Leadership Award

One of the last orders of business before the players left Allen Park for the offseason was to vote on team awards.

Calvin Johnson won the offensive MVP. DeAndre Levy was named defensive MVP. Ziggy Ansah was the rookie of the year and Joique Bell the most improved.

Among the award winners are veterans Nate Burleson and Dominic Raiola, who have uncertain futures in Detroit.

Burleson, who will likely have to take a pay cut to finish out the last year of his contract with the Lions, was voted the Mike Utley Spirit Award winner.

The Mike Utley Award is presented to the player who exhibited tremendous spirit, desire, dedication and work ethic. This award is given in honor of former Lions guard Mike Utley, who suffered a career-ending neck injury, which left him paralyzed on Nov. 17, 1991.

Minutes after sustaining the injury, Utley flashed his teammates a “thumbs up” sign as he was wheeled from the field, a gesture that galvanized a team that went on to win its next seven contests and advanced to the NFC Championship game.

Burleson suffered a broken forearm in a late-night car accident Sept. 23 and missed the teams next seven games as a result. Through the process, however, he stayed positive and upbeat and could even laugh at himself about the circumstances surrounding his accident.

Burleson finished the season with 39 receptions for 461 yards and a touchdown in nine games.

Raiola was voted the Eric Andolsek Top Offensive Lineman for his play on the field, but was also voted by his teammates as the Joe Schmidt Leadership Award recipient.

The Joe Schmidt Award is presented to the player who has displayed outstanding leadership, drive and achievement on the field and in the locker room. This award is given in honor of former linebacker Joe Schmidt who was named All-Pro in eight of his 13 seasons (1953-65), earning 10 consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl. He served as captain of the Lions for nine seasons.

From 1967-72, Schmidt compiled a 43-35-7 record as Detroit’s head coach. Schmidt was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1973.

Raiola has been a Lion his entire 13-year career, but will be an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts in March. He’s coming off probably his best season in 2013 and has made it known he'd like to finish out his career in Detroit.