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JB Awards Honors Commitment To Community, And Special Olympics
WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than one million dollars was raised for the Special Olympics at the 2007 NFL Players Gala, featuring the JB Awards, which was held in Washington D.C. on April 12.
Hosted by CBS sportscaster James Brown and Washington Post columnist and co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption”, Michael Wilbon, the event is a partnership designed to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics, and to honor members of the NFL for their service and commitment to their communities.
“The players here are very, very special. They have gone beyond the playing field and have really shown what character and dedication are all about,” said Gene Upshaw, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association. The five JB Awards handed out were in the categories of Executive Leadership, Perseverance, National Service, Compassion and Community Dedication.
“The trait linking all of our award recipients tonight is character. Without character, there is no leadership,” Wilbon said.
The JB Award for Executive Leadership went to Lamar Hunt. Hunt was the founder of the AFL in 1959, head of the Kansas City Chiefs franchise, and was a member of eight different Halls of Fame. Hunt passed away in December of 2006. His award was accepted by his son, Clark Hunt.
The Perseverance Award went to Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl. Dungy has been an NFL head coach for 12 seasons, has a career coaching record of 123-70, and is well known for his spiritual and community leadership activities, which include a Prison Crusade Ministry, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“This is a great honor for the city and me personally. It shows that you can put the Lord first, stay true to that, and treat people and coach people they way you would want your son’s to be coached. It’s easy to say you’re blessed when things are going well, but when you do things the right way, you have a chance to send a powerful message,” Dungy said.
Dungy said his message to both his teams in Tampa Bay and later in Indy was essentially the same. “Our challenge is always to win the Super Bowl, but if that’s all we do, it will be a shallow victory,” Dungy said.
The award for National Service went to Marshall Faulk, recently retired from the St. Louis Rams. During an NFL Career which spanned 13 years, Faulk ranks ninth in both rushing and all purpose yards, and first among receiving yards for a running back.
His Marshall Faulk Foundation, which he started in 1994, provides assistance to inner city youth organizations and underprivileged children both in St. Louis, and his native New Orleans.
The Award for Community Dedication went to the New Orleans Saints franchise for their efforts in assisting the victims of hurricane Katrina. The Saints players and organization as a whole donated supplies, assisted with finding shelters, made public service announcements, and spent time volunteering at schools and hospitals to help a devastated city begin to rebuild itself.
The award was accepted by Saints players Scott Fujita, Michael Lewis and Deuce McAllister.
The Compassion Award went to Everson Walls, who played for the Dallas Cowboys, N.Y. Giants and Cleveland Browns during his 13 year NFL career. Walls recently donated a kidney to his best friend and former Cowboys teammate Ron Springs, who has Type 2 Diabetes.
“We are shaped by different people and different events in our lifetime. With the closeness Ron and I have with each other and with our families, it was an extremely easy decision to make and I felt good about it. I didn’t have any second thoughts,” Walls said of the decision to donate his kidney.
“We noticed the difference in Ron right away, two or three days after the surgery. Before he left the hospital, you could see his color coming back. He looked like the same old Ron. He never really lost his spirit,” Walls said.
Ron Spring’s son Shawn, a cornerback for the Washington Redskins, said he’s awed by what Walls did for his family.
“It was unbelievable. You really get to know how good a friend and teammate he is when he offers to give up an organ to save your life. That meant a lot to my father and their friendship,” Springs said.
The other special award presented that evening was the Byron “Whizzer” White Award, presented each year to an NFL player who demonstrates a commitment of service to his team and his community. This year’s winner was Denver Broncos safety John Lynch.
“This is my NFL, these guys up here and what they do in their communities,” Lynch said in reference to the other nominees who shared the stage with him. “They are outstanding men who take community service as a responsibility and an opportunity”.
“I had great role models in my parents and grandparents who not only told me, but showed me that it’s the responsibility for everyone to give back to their community.”
Lynch started the John Lynch Foundation, which has the goal of developing leadership skills thought community programs that include a student-athlete recognition program and legacy scholarships.
Lynch was also honored this year as winner of the Bart Starr Award and the Wooden Cup Award for leadership in his community.
The other finalists for the award were Darnell Dinkins of the Cleveland Browns, Donald Driver of the Green Bay Packers, Ryan Nece of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Shaun O’Hara of the N.Y. Giants, Chad Pennington of the N.Y. Jets, Duane Starks of the Oakland Raiders, Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphins, Grant Wistrom of the Seattle Seahawks and Renaldo Wynn of the Washington Redskins.
“The NFL is a microcosm of society at large and the overwhelming majority of players are all about good,” Brown said.
“These guys here tonight represent the best of the best.”