HOUSTON (Feb. 6) -- Houston rolled out the blue carpet for the Houston Sports Awards Dinner Wednesday evening as the city celebrated its athletes, both homegrown and imported.
Motorsports icon A.J. Foyt was among the stars honored for their achievements in sport, along with golf’s Jackie Burke, Olympic Gold Medalist and Heavyweight Champion George Foreman, and Dan Pastorini, quarterback for the Luv Ya Blue Oilers.
Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni was named Coach of the Year, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles was named Athlete of the Year and Houston Texans J.J. Watt won the Sportsman of the Year award for the second straight year for his charitable work.
Watts, who paid for the funerals of the victims of the Santa Fe High School shooting, gave the award via a video message to his presenters, the students who founded Hearts United for Kindness.
Joie Chitwood, the COO of International Speedway Corp., introduced Foyt with a speech highlighting Foyt’s amazing records on the track and equally amazing toughness in coming back from injuries.
Emcee Bill Worrell and Joie Chitwood watch as A.J. accepts artwork of his ring.
“Being able to introduce A.J. and be a part of this night makes my whole year,” said the man who is responsible for overseeing 13 motorsports facilities which promote over 100 events a year.
Foyt was touched by the tributes which included a special video heralding his achievements, the presentation of the Hall of Fame jacket, as well as the beautifully crafted silver trophy featuring a shooting star, a ball and the words, “Nunquam MINORIS fortissumus corde” which is Latin for ‘Never underestimate the powerful heart.’ When he is formally inducted in June, he will receive a custom crafted Houston Sports Hall of Fame ring emblazoned with a checkered flag on a field of diamonds, his name, the number 14, the Houston cityscape and 'Super Tex'.
“This was really special tonight because Houston is where I was born and raised,” said the 84-year-old Houstonian. “To be put in the Hall of Fame with people I’ve known for years and who are celebrities in their own sports field, Jackie Burke, George Foreman and Dan Pastorini, makes me proud. I am honored to be named amongst them.”
Asked why he never moved away, Foyt revealed, “My momma and daddy were born here, my family was here, my kids were born here and to be honest, I just like Houston. It’s a great town. I never saw any reason to move away.”
A.J. with his kids: (L to R): Larry, grandson A.J. IV, Terry, Tony, A.J. and Jerry.
In only its second year, the Houston Sports Awards Dinner drew kudos from Foyt who said, “It was a lot bigger event than I thought it was going to be and really nice. Everyone involved in putting it on did a great job tonight.”
Other luminaries in attendance were Hakeem Olajuwon, the Houston Rockets basketball star who presented the Executive of the Year award to Tilman Fertitta, the Houston businessman and Rockets team owner; “Mean Joe” Greene of the Pittsburgh Steelers and friend of Pastorini’s, and Coach Wade Phillips of the L.A. Rams who introduced Pastorini. Baseball’s Alex Bregman and Roger Clemens, Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis and rodeo champion roper Fred Whitfield were also among the guests.