Kraft was faced with the illness and death of his wife, Myra, who lost her battle with cancer in 2011, as he played an instrumental role in the NFL's collective bargaining negotiations with the players' association. The league avoided a work stoppage and played a full schedule in 2012.
Kraft is the 43d winner of the award and is the first NFL owner and first member of the Patriots franchise to receive the honor. The Professional Football Writers of America vote on the award, named for the Pro Football Hall of Famer who was an owner, manager, player and promoter for the Chicago Bears.
Later on Monday, Kraft learned he had been chosen for induction to the Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame. Kraft, who holds a bachelor's degree in history an economics from Columbia, played lightweight football while a student and was later a university trustee.