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Benevolence, bravery honored at Sneaker Soiree

Edward DeBartolo Jr. is presented the Lee Roy Selmon Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual gala
Former Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson (right), an ardent supporter of military families, was honored at the eighth annual Sneaker Soiree in Tampa on Thursday. Presenting him the Tom McEwen Community Advocate Award is Dr. Lee Green of the Moffitt Cancer Center. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times).
Former Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson (right), an ardent supporter of military families, was honored at the eighth annual Sneaker Soiree in Tampa on Thursday. Presenting him the Tom McEwen Community Advocate Award is Dr. Lee Green of the Moffitt Cancer Center. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times).
Published May 4, 2018
Updated May 4, 2018

The eighth Sneaker Soiree, an annual celebration of bay area sports, commenced Thursday evening with executives from local pro franchises and their spouses participating in a spoof of The Newlywed Game.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht and wife Blair played along, as did Rays president Brian Auld and wife Molly. Even Jess Cooper took a seat onstage, though hubby Jon's responses arrived via video feed from Boston, where his Lightning team remains on a pretty intense business trip.

Yet as is often the case at this yearly gala, the parodies were upstaged by poignance.

Coaches, performances and community benefactors — all providing varying degrees of inspiration — were honored at the event, put on by the Tampa Bay Sports Commission at TPepin's Hospitality Centre in east Tampa.

Receiving the night's final honor — the Lee Roy Selmon Lifetime Achievement Award — was Pro Football Hall of Famer Edward DeBartolo Jr. Best known for winning five Super Bowls as 49ers owner, DeBartolo is revered locally for his philanthropy and support of various bay area organizations.

Helping Tampa Bay Times sports reporter Rick Stroud present the award were Selmon's widow, Claybra, and son Lee Roy Jr.

"I cherish this award because it bears (Selmon's) name," DeBartolo said.

Former Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson, whose foundation supports military families, received the Tom McEwen Community Advocate Award, named in memory of the former longtime Tampa Tribune sports editor.

Hillsborough High senior Iggy Thomas, who suffered a frightening spinal injury in a Sept. 22 game that left him briefly paralyzed, was presented the Freddie Solomon Moral Courage Award.

Related: No one knows the beauty of second chances better than Hillsborough's Iggy Thomas

Thomas, who required a walker shortly after the incident, walked to the stage on his own Thursday with nary a limp. He intends to play at Division III Becker College in Worcester, Mass.

"It doesn't even matter if he's successful in college football," Terriers coach Earl Garcia said in a video tribute. "The fact that he was able to get to that point after where he was on the 22nd of September, that's what's incredible."

Receiving the Under Armour "I Will" Award was Carrollwood Day eighth-grader Jonathan Conrad, who suffered torn right ankle ligaments in the 132-pound final at the Class 1A state wrestling tournament, but continued on and won the match.

Related: One working ankle? No sweat for state champion wrestler Jonathan Conrad

Soiree honorees
A list of those honored at Thursday evening's Sneaker Soiree

Tampa Bay Rowdies Fan of the Year: Chris Behrens

Tampa Bay Rays Fan of the Year: Sharon Tyson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fan of the Year: Albert "Bucified" Owens

Tampa Bay Lightning Fan of the Year: Sticks of Fire

USF Fan of the Year: David Goldstein, Joanne Nelson

Freddie Solomon Moral Courage Award: Iggy Thomas, Hillsborough High football

Youth Coach of the Year: Diana Jackson, Tampa Gymnastics

Tom McEwen Community Advocate Award: Vincent Jackson

Sports Community Hero: Calvary Christian baseball team (on 57-game win streak)

Sports Community Hero: Eric Ugarte, Plant City boys soccer player

Under Armour "I Will" Award: Jonathan Conrad, Carrollwood Day wrestler

Lee Roy Selmon Lifetime Achievement Award: Edward DeBartolo Jr.