Tulysse Grabs Top Prize. Norrey has a Night to Remember
The Emirates American Football League’s (EAFL) Player of the Year award came down to two dynamic running backs, but unlike in the Desert Bowl, this duel was won by the Abu Dhabi Wildcats.
Vivaldi Tulysse, star of the capital’s team, claimed the prestigious honour for the second time in his career, edging the Dubai Barracudas’ Luke Norrey at the fourth annual EAFL Player Awards on Friday at the Els Club.
“It feels really good to get that trophy again,” said Tulysse, who also won the award following the EAFL’s inaugural season in 2013.
“This trophy really means a lot to me because of the things my team went through.
“Luke is a pretty good running back himself. It could have gone either way really,” he added.
“There are a lot of pretty good guys in the league now. I was a little surprised when I got the call to learn I won and I’m grateful for it.”
Tulysse and Norrey led their respective sides in March’s Desert Bowl, which the Barracudas won 21-18 in a tightly-contested battle.
The championship also had a crucial taunting penalty called on Tulysse in the final quarter that negated what would have been his third touchdown. The wounds still haven’t healed for Tulysse and Player of the Year offers little consolation.
“A lot of us are still hurt by that play (taunting penalty) which bothers a lot of us still,” Tulysse said.
“To me, the MVP trophy is the MVP trophy, but I would rather get the Desert Bowl trophy any day.”
Norrey, meanwhile, narrowly missed out on what would have been the icing on the cake of his dream season.
After powering the undefeated Barracudas to the title and being named Desert Bowl MVP, Norrey earned Offensive Player of the Year.
“Everyone wants the MVP, but Offensive Player of the Year, along with the team awards we won, it was perfect,” Norrey said.
“I told Q (running back Quinton Collins), he did it all for me and it came from the guys on the offensive line, so it was a team effort. I just took the glory for what they did at the end of the day.”
There was little the stalwart playmaker didn’t accomplish in his second season and first in a major role with the champions, but the motivation to improve remains as he eyes the one trophy he couldn’t collect for next season.
“The one thing I want is what was on the board, Player of the Year. That’s obviously the goal next year. But we’ll work as a team and take what’s given to us. As long as we win, who cares?”
On the other side of the ball, Dubai Stallions linebacker Haider Shah and Abu Dhabi defensive end Jermaine Lattimore were both named Defensive Player of the Year.
In his second year, Shah turned into the rock of the Stallions’ unit after they suffered plenty of roster turnover from their title-winning campaign the previous season.
“This year I had to kind of prove myself even more,” Shah said. “I worked hard in the offseason to build my strength and speed, so I told myself this would be the year I would step up and take the lead for the team and that’s what I did.”
The towering Lattimore was a major force for the Wildcats, bringing size on the edge to disrupt opposing offences.
“Just looking at his size, he’s an intimidating player,” Shah said. “I played full-back as well and we always had to know where Jermaine was before we ran the ball because he is that type of player where he can be a big body and aggressive body in front of you.”
Special Teams Player of the Year also went to an Abu Dhabi player as Mido Bakr earned the honour.
Along with defensive duties, Bakr served as kicker and booted the longest field goal of the EAFL season from 40 yards.