HOUSTON – Houston rolled out the blue carpet for the Houston Sports Awards Dinner Wednesday evening, as the city celebrated its athletes, both homegrown and imported.
Motorsports icon A.J. Foyt was among the stars honored for their achievements in sport, along with golf’s Jackie Burke, Olympic gold medalist and heavyweight champion George Foreman and Dan Pastorini, quarterback for the Luv Ya Blue Oilers.
Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni was named Coach of the Year, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles was named Athlete of the Year and Houston Texans J.J. Watt won the Sportsman of the Year award for the second straight year for his charitable work.
Watts, who paid for the funerals of the victims of the Santa Fe High School shooting, gave the award via a video message to his presenters, the students who founded Hearts United for Kindness.
Joie Chitwood, the COO of International Speedway Corp., introduced Foyt with a speech highlighting Foyt’s amazing records on the track and equally amazing toughness in coming back from injuries.
“Being able to introduce A.J. and be a part of this night makes my whole year,” said Chitwood.
Foyt was touched by the tributes, which included a special video heralding his achievements, the presentation of the Hall of Fame jacket and a crafted silver trophy featuring a shooting star, a ball and the words, “Nunquam MINORIS fortissumus corde” – Latin for ‘Never underestimate the powerful heart.’
When he is formally inducted in June, Foyt will receive a custom-crafted Houston Sports Hall of Fame ring emblazoned with a checkered flag on a field of diamonds, his name, the No. 14, the Houston cityscape and ‘Super Tex’.
“This was really special tonight because Houston is where I was born and raised,” said the 84-year-old. “To be put in the Hall of Fame with people I’ve known for years and who are celebrities in their own sports field, Jackie Burke, George Foreman and Dan Pastorini, makes me proud. I am honored to be named among them.”
Asked why he never moved away, Foyt revealed that it was largely due to family ties.
“My momma and daddy were born here, my family was here, my kids were born here and to be honest, I just like Houston,” Foyt noted. “It’s a great town. I never saw any reason to move away.”