Thorpe Award Gala Honors Eric Berry, Steve Owens, Vance McSpadden and All-State Football Team
15 Feb, 2010
Tennessee's Eric Berry took home the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation's best college football defensive back. University of Oklahoma football great Steve Owens became only the eighth person ever to receive the Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. Jim Thorpe Executive Council member Vance McSpadden was presented the 2009 Abe Lemons Award and the Jim Thorpe/Oklahoman All-State Football Team received Certificates of Commendation from Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry.
Berry was a unanimous All-American in 2008 and 2009, and won the Thorpe Award in the most one-sided vote ever. Thorpe Association co-chairmen Mike James and Frank Naifeh presented the award with the assistance of last year's winner, Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State. Jenkins had played a significant part in the New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl win the night before the banquet and then made a whirlwind airline trip to be in Oklahoma City for the awards ceremony. Also assisting in the awards ceremony were former Thorpe Award winners Antoine Cason (2007, Arizona) and Bennie Blades (1987, Miami, FL). In addition to the Thorpe Award trophy, Coleman Clark presented Berry a platinum "Yachtsman" watch from Rolex and Oklahoma City's B. C. Clark Jewelers.
Steve Owens was unable to attend the ceremonies due to complications from surgery a few days earlier. Thorpe Association president Lynne Draper and 1978 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims presented the Lifetime Achievement Award with 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White accepting the honor on behalf of Owens.
The Thorpe Association's annual Abe Lemons Award went to Executive Council member Vance McSpadden for his volunteer work and financial support of the Thorpe organization and "in recognition of his dedication to Oklahoma and the goals of the Jim Thorpe Association". Jim Thorpe Association Executive Director Eddie Griffin made the presentation.
Lt. Governor Jari Askins continued the tradition of participation by the Lt. Governor of Oklahoma as Honorary Banquet Chairperson and presented the Governor's Certificates of Commendation to the All-State Football Team. She was assisted by The Oklahoman Sports Editor Mike Sherman while the players were introduced by sports columnist Berry Tramel. Each recipient then posed for a photo with the Lt. Governor and former Thorpe Award winners Blades, Cason and Jenkins. Star Spencer High School's Darrell Hall received the Coach of the Year trophy and the offensive and defensive Players of the Year were Demarco Cobbs, Tulsa Central, and Emmanuel Maxwell, Midwest City.
KFOR Sports Director Bob Barry, Jr., provided entertaining and enthusiastic direction for the evening's activities. The U.S. Navy Honor Guard from Tinker Air Force Base presented the Colors while Oklahoma State Trooper Stanford McConnell sang the National Anthem. John O'Dell, State Director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes provided the invocation. Trooper McConnell later brought the audience to its feet with a rousing rendition of "God Bless the USA".