The sixth annual The News-Press All-Area Stars Sports Awards will feature one of the greatest football players in Florida history who won three Super Bowls during his Hall of Fame career as its guest speaker.
Emmitt Smith, a Pensacola native who starred at the University of Florida before enjoying a record-breaking, 13-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys, will speak at the banquet on Tuesday, May 31, at Germain Arena.
A 1990 Cowboys first-round draft pick, Smith became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher (18,355 yards) while playing from 1990-2003 with Dallas. The Escambia High graduate was named the fifth-greatest player in Super Bowl history by ESPN in January, and is the only player in NFL history to win the Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP award and NFL MVP award in the same season (1993). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
“Emmitt Smith is Dallas Cowboys royalty. He is NFL royalty,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said at Smith’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “He’s got the heart of a champion. I think it’s fair to say that a runner of his kind will never be seen again … The Pro Football Hall of Fame would not be complete without Emmitt Smith.”
Smith was a winner on the dance floor as well, teaming with Cheryl Burke to win ABC’s Dancing With the Stars reality show competition in 2006.
The evening’s main purpose is to honor the top high school athletes in The News-Press coverage area. Three finalists from all 24 varsity sports are invited to the event. A Player of the Year will be crowned in each sport. Out of those 72 athletes, an overall Male and Female Athlete of the Year will be named based on the student-athlete who shows not only excellence on the field, but also in the classroom and in their community.
The second annual Jeff Sommer Coach of the Year award will also be presented. Each area high school has been encouraged to nominate one coach that exemplifies the former Estero High cross country and track coach’s philosophy of the Three Ds — Discipline, Desire and Dedication. Three finalists will be invited the banquet with the winner being crowned. The award was created in the memory of Sommer, who collapsed and died last March while coaching the Wildcats at the state track meet in Tallahassee.
Individual tickets are $50 for the event and table sponsorships are available for $3,000.