Ed Block Courage Awards reception

March 14, 2010|By Sloane Brown | Special to The Baltimore Sun

At first glance, the gathering at the Martin's West banquet hall looked like any other black-tie affair. Formally clad guests politely chatted while sipping cocktails and sampling hors d'oeuvres. On closer inspection, it was apparent that many of the tuxedos in the room were of the big-and-tall variety. After all, this was the VIP reception for the annual Ed Block Courage Awards. The annual event honors one player from each of the 32 NFL teams.

Al Poklemba, Glenelg Country School athletic director, and his wife, Cheri Poklemba, discovered there was one tiny issue with all those big tuxedos.

"It's hard to recognize these guys when they're all dressed up and not wearing their numbers," said Al Poklemba.

This was a tad out of the ordinary for the players, as well.

"It's very different to have your teammates look up to you. Now we're getting to meet guys we look up to, like [Denver Bronco] Brian Dawkins," said Green Bay Packer Nick Collins.

Jacksonville Jaguars award recipient Richard Collier was elected by his teammates for exemplifying courage after he was paralyzed in a 2008 shooting. He noted that he had been particularly impressed by a visit earlier that day to the Baltimore Ravens Courage House, which offers support to abused children.

"It's been amazing. The biggest thing is the kids. It makes you put everything in perspective," Collier said.

This year's event drew added attention from animal advocates, who protested the presence of award recipient and Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Michael Vick. Inside the hall, Vick chatted with fellow guests and posed for pictures with fans.

Meanwhile, guest Michael Markarian, the Humane Society of the United States chief operating officer, was there to support Vick's current efforts with the Humane Society.

"We're talking to people about our programs steering at-risk youth away from dogfighting. Michael Vick has been traveling around the country, speaking about it, and he's had a big impact. So, we're hoping to get other NFL players involved, as well," he explained.

Sam Lamantia Jr., Ed Block Courage Award Foundation founder and president, summed up the intent of the evening with, "This is [considered a] prestigious event because their teammates vote for them, and we honor them. Hopefully, everybody will honor that and respect that."

Sloane Brown may be contacted at sloane@sloanebrown.com.

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