Ed Block and courage still inspires us all

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Once again, it wasn’t about the football or the fame or the money.

Last night, at the 30th Annual Ed Block Courage Awards Foundation, it was about the kids and about courage.

Lemme give you a little background.

Ed Block was the trainer of the Colts for many years during the halcyon days of Johnny Unitas and company. He was actually a  trainer to the first astronauts. He was a small man with a heart many times oversized, who loved kids and his Colts football players.
This foundation was founded in the mid-1970’s by a Towson barber named Sam Lamantia, who honored Joe Ehrmann the first year at a small banquet.

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For many years the event and foundation was aided by my dear late friend John Steadman, whose ties to the NFL affored Lamantia a chance to turn this event into a national event, and it has been ever since 1984 when the Colts left Baltimore.

They’ve raised millions of dollars.

I’ve been to 17 banquets now – many years I’ve served as the M.C. of the Sunday night dinner, or the Sunday TV auction or the Monday night sponsor function (as I was two nights ago) and I’ve even pitched in with some presentations on the “big show” on Tuesday nights over the years.

When they ask, I answer.

I’ve done probably a hundred Ed Block-sponsored events over the years – for about a decade they were the only charity I ever raised money for – including all seven years of the Nice Guy Awards.

Last night was as fine a banquet as there’s been, chock full of charity, inspiration and love not only for football and the NFL, but for life and for these abused children who benefit from the event, memorabilia sales and annual fundraising.

It was a celebratory night and a huge success in many ways.

I got to the event a little late – after 5 p.m. – and did a quick piece for wnsTV with Jeff Garcia, who was a super cool guy. (CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO). I made my way into the V.I.P. room and saw the strangest of sights. I bumped into Jason Garrett, and saw him shake hands with John Harbaugh.

How’s THIS for a bizarre picture??? (And I don’t just mean the guy in the middle!)

When Garrett got his award for offensive coach of the year, flanked by Brian Billick, Scott Garceau deadpanned: “Jason, is this your first visit to Baltimore?”

The crowd howled with laughter.

A few observations and memorable notes:

•    Brian Billick made his first public appearance since his firing, receiving a warm standing ovation. He said that he was unsure of what the reaction would be, and even made light of his “unemployed” status.

•    John Harbaugh made his first public appearance as the head coach of the Ravens. He also received a great ovation, discussing his relationship with Montae Reagor of the Eagles, as well as acknowledging Samari Rolle and O.J. Brigance.

•    Speaking of Brigance, many members of the media have known for months about his ALS diagnosis, but decided to remain silent until he was comfortable discussing his disease. Last night, as longtime friend Bruce Cunningham presented his award, Brigance showed the class and dignity we’ve all seen for nearly 15 years. Brigance talked about fighting his disease and beating it and not giving up. Brigance will forever be the only player with a Baltimore championship ring in the NFL and CFL. He’s always been the classiest of class acts, and it’s tough for all of us to watch him struggle with this disease, as he’s lost most function of his arms and hands. His speech last night and his focus was awe-inspiring.

•    Many in the crowd did not know about Kevin Jones’ story before last night. The Detroit Lions running back made public his personal story about an absentee father and his subsequent death as a child, and his stepfather’s role in raising him and giving him the strength to be a better person and football player. The video of his initial acceptance of the Ed Block Courage Award in Detroit from a few months ago was played, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

•    And, last but certainly not least, was the presentation to Buffalo Bills’ miracle man, Kevin Everett, who walked onto the stage and accepted his award just six months and two days after suffering a broken neck in the opening weekend of the NFL season. We’re all pretty familiar with his story by now, but to hear the intimate details of his comeback and to see the videos, interviews with doctors and then to see him walk onto the stage at Martin’s West was incredibly inspirational. He is truly a lliving, breathing miracle.

It was quite the evening…very memorable, very inspirational and even more than what we’ve come to expect from the Ed Block Awards!

And I’ve been to ‘em all since 1992.

If you need more information about the Ed Block Courage Awards Foundation or want to volunteer or help with financial donations, go to their official website at www.edblock.com

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Baltimore Positive is the vision and the creative extension of four decades of sharing the love of local sports for this Dundalk native and University of Baltimore grad, who began his career as a sportswriter and music critic at The News American and The Baltimore Sun in the mid-1980s. Launched radio career in December 1991 with Kenny Albert after covering the AHL Skipjacks. Bought WNST-AM 1570 in July 1998, created WNST.net in 2007 and began diversifying conversations on radio, podcast and social media as Baltimore Positive in 2016. nes@baltimorepositive.com