Some of the more high-profile players of the National Football League visited Baltimore March 9 to be honored in the 32nd annual Ed Block Courage Awards Banquet at Martin’s West.
For more than three decades, NFL icons have gathered in Maryland to honor the most courageous of their own, while also raising funds for abused/disadvantaged youths in the area. The Courage Award is named after Ed Block, the legendary head athletic trainer for the former Baltimore Colts, who was considered by many a pioneer in his profession and a respected humanitarian. Since 1984, the award has expanded to honoring one player from each NFL team who, in the eyes of his teammates, best exemplifies courage.
This season, five-year veteran safety Dawan Landry was selected as Baltimore’s most courageous player. In his short career, Landry has developed into one of the Ravens’ most valuable starters on defense, but was limited to two games in 2008 before a neck injury sidelined him for the season. But the Georgia Tech alum displayed great courage by bounding back from injury in 2009. He led the secondary with 89 tackles, four interceptions, and helped Baltimore advance to the divisional round of the 2010 AFC playoffs.
“I first found out I was selected back in either October or November, so I’ve had a while to soak it all in,” Landry told the AFRO. “I was excited more so because it’s an award that every player would want to be known for. Some of the greats on our team like Ed Reed have won this award, so it’s an honor to be mentioned among such names.”
Fourteen-year veteran Phillip Daniels represented Washington as the most courageous player, while University of Maryland alums E. J. Henderson and Shawne Merriman were selected as the Minnesota Vikings’ and San Diego Chargers’ most courageous players.
But perhaps the most interesting moment of the event surrounded the Philadelphia Eagles’ selectee Michael Vick, who successfully returned to the league after serving an 18-month federal prison sentence for his involvement in dog fighting. His teammates consider him courageous for overcoming the consequences of his mistakes, but from where some animal lovers sit, Vick needs to do more to prove his courageousness.
“Mr. Vick has served his time for his crime, and we acknowledge that. But now we want him to serve his community,” said Maryland Votes for Animals Chair Carolyn Kilborn, who joined about a hundred animal rights protesters outside of Martin’s West during the banquet.
“We want Mr. Vick to prove he deserves this courage award. If he’s going to come to Baltimore to receive it, then he needs to prove it to the Baltimore community with his mouth and money.”
Kilborn requested that Vick set up events to speak to at-risk youths in Maryland about the irresponsibility of animal cruelty, and also suggested that he donate funds to open more agility training centers in the area, which balances exercise and training for dogs.
Vick didn’t speak in response to the protesters at the banquet, but it has been reported that he has teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States on a long-term commitment with their community-based outreach programs to help steer inner-city youths away from dog fighting.