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Player awards: Spirit

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.

This year's Mike Utley Spirit Award, as voted by the players, goes to veteran safety Don Carey.

View photos of Don Carey from the 2016 season.

Carey was the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for his work in the community. He also recently wrote a book about his life and the lessons he's learned called It's Not Because I'm Better Than You.

"I haven't known too many guys to do it while they're still playing," head coach Jim Caldwell said when asked about Carey's book. "Oftentimes you find books come out when they're out (of football). There's been a few I think that you can point to. But nevertheless, there's been a few guys who have done it in season come to think of it, but I've never been around a guy that has done it.

"He's a guy that does have I think a unique story to tell. I do think when you look at his background there's some things in there that I think will resonate with particularly some young people that have gone through some tough times that want to use their life and circumstances as an excuse, which he hasn't done.

"He certainly gives you kind of a blueprint of a way out. It's not the only way out, but he's pretty broad and pretty well-versed in a number of different areas and he has a heart for young people, which he's shown with the STEM program and things that he's done throughout the community. He and his wife do a tremendous job in that area. I think it'll be a pretty good book to be honest with you. I've read a couple excerpts from it. He does a nice job."

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