Last night, I had the privilege of attending the Davey O’Brien Awards Dinner here in Fort Worth with my dad and brother. Troy Smith was the recipient of this year’s National Quarterback Award. As a Notre Dame graduate, what made this evening special for me was the presentation of the Davey O’Brien Legends Award to Paul Hornung (Notre Dame Heisman winner and Green Bay Packer legend), as well as the possibility of meeting Quarterback Award finalist Brady Quinn. Unfortunately, Brady was not in attendance, but we did have the chance to get an autograph from Paul, as well as have our picture taken with him.
I had never been to an event like this before. All told, I would guess there were fewer than 1,000 people there. The ability to rub shoulders with people I have seen and heard about for most of my life was surreal, to say the least. While we ate, I watched Troy Aikman pose for pictures with Earl Campbell. Russell Maryland sat one table over from us. I overheard Verne Lundquist drop a few s-bombs as he had a conversation with some people who seemed to be old friends of his. The list of media and sports luminaries in attendance goes on and on.
Paul Hornung’s acceptance speech was the highlight of the evening. If you’re a Notre Dame fan, and you’ve never had the chance to hear Paul speak, you’re missing out. He seemed to have an anecdote for most of the people sitting in the room, especially those who were old acquaintances of his – Pat Summerall, Troy Aikman, Jim McMahon, etc. His best moment of the evening came as he addressed Troy Smith. Looking to his left from the podium, Hornung reminded Smith that he had been the #1 pick in the NFL Draft after his Notre Dame career, and that Smith was about to be the same [I assume he meant that Smith would be a high pick, not #1 overall]. After that, he paused, then said that he had made $15,000 that first year, and that Smith would probably make $60 million. Of course, he did note that his signing bonus was $3,500! Hornung then went on to praise Smith, remarking that he was tired of hearing criticisms about Smith’s lack of height and rumors about his falling draft stock, and that he wished people would just focus on his ability. Then, in the line of the night, he said [referring to either the Packers’ GM or head coach, I assume] that if the Packers pass on a chance to draft Smith, he would personally go up to Green Bay and “kick that guy’s ass.”
I was very impressed by the brief addresses of Smith and Jim Tressel. I had never heard Smith speak before, as I was only minimally attentive to his Heisman speech after I found out that Brady would not be the winner. He talked without notes, was very poised, and explained how the award was especially meaningful to him because it was a quarterback award [which I took as a reference to those who have doubted his ability at the position]. Both he and Coach Tressel were very gracious in posing for pictures with my little brother and his friend.
Here’s to making this dinner a family (and fld) tradition. Pictures to come…