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What We're About
*Special Letter from Sam Lamantia, Jr., Chairman of the Board, CEO and Co-Founder
What We're About
by Larry Harris, The Baltimore Sun
We are about a vision that became a reality over thirty years ago, a vision of a sports event to raise funds for abused children through the Baltimore Colts. A vision that is today sanctioned by the National Football League.
The vision was a recurring dream of Sam Lamantia, Jr., a Baltimore hair stylist. The courage award concept was initiated by Ernie Accorsi, a highly respected NFL executive who currently serves as president of the New York Giants. Larry Harris, then assistant sports editor of The Evening Sun, recommended Ed Block, a longtime trainer with the Baltimore Colts, as the namesake. These elements resulted in the first Ed Block Courage Award in 1978, sponsored then by the Eastside Athletic Club. Joe Ehrmann, a defensive end from the Colts, was the first recipient of the award.
In 1984, Sam Lamantia, professional athletic trainer John Lopez and all the NFL Athletic Trainers, along with Sister Grace Calvisi of St. Vincent’s Center took the event to the national level. The award was expanded to honor one player from each of the National Football League teams who, in the eyes of his teammates, best exemplifies and displays courage.
The cooperative efforts of the Foundation, the NFL, the NFL Players Association, the NFL Alumni Association, NFL Films, the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society and the Pro Football Hall of Fame have enabled the dream to grow. In 1987, affiliation with NFL Charities became an important factor in ensuring continuing success and growth. The late Pete Rozelle was a strong supporter of our efforts, and in 1989 The National Grant to NFL Charities was dedicated in his name. Current Commissioner Paul Tagliabue continues to champion the cause through his support with NFL Charities.
Today, the Ed Block Courage Awards event is heralded as one of the most prestigious in the NFL, and the Foundation has expanded its scope, recognition, and charitable efforts to a highly visible national level. Another of Sam's dreams, the creation of a national network through dedication of Courage Houses in NFL cities, is also well under way. On a nation-wide basis, the Foundation has formulated a Courage House National Support Network for Kids through the dedication of Courage Houses in 20 NFL cities. The Foundation also sponsors the Baltimore Sports Media Hall of Fame Award and the Professional Football Athletic Training Staff of the Year Award.
The Courage Awards event has become known as one of the finest events of its type in the country. The ceremony has attracted such honored guests as Weeb Ewbank, Wayne Fontes, Chuck Noll, Don Shula, Ted Marchibroda, John Sandusky, Dick Szymanski, John Elway, Joe Montana, Bubba Smith and Brian Billick.
The list also includes Pro Football Hall of Famers John Unitas, Sonny Jurgensen, Paul Hornung, Art Donovan, Y. A. Tittle, Otto Graham, Gale Sayers, Forrest Gregg, Bill Willis, Raymond Berry, John Mackey, Mike Ditka, Bobby Mitchell, Lenny Moore, Willie Davis, Willie Wood, Gino Marchetti, Jim Parker, Joe Perry, Ted Hendricks, Bart Starr, Franco Harris and Doak Walker. The list of distinguished speakers includes Larry King, Jim McKay and Astronauts Rear Admiral Richard Truly, Robert Crippen and Dick Lawyer, NFL Films’ President Steve Sabol, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Owner Dan Rooney, Chicago Bears’ Owner Edward McCaskey, Baltimore Ravens' Owner Art Modell and former Miami Dolphins’ Owner Tim Robbie.
The driving force behind this unique enterprise is the volunteer group of dedicated individuals who work year round to ensure a successful undertaking.
Over the entire program looms the memory of Ed Block, a great humanitarian during his lifetime and a moving force in his chosen profession of athletic training for many years.
Ed Block was an adventurer, unafraid of going where no man had gone before, and indeed his work with the U.S. Space Program labeled him as a visionary. In his field, he was the equivalent of a combat medic administering plasma in a foxhole, Charles Lindbergh flying the Atlantic, or Sir Edmund Hilary climbing Mt. Everest.
Above all, he believed in the rights of children, no matter how hurt or handicapped, to be exposed to the good things in life. He was outspoken on the subject of child abuse and he practiced what he preached until his dying day.
Someday, if the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio considers establishing a niche for the faithful men whose toil to keep muscle, bone, and sinew in one package, Ed Block should receive the highest priority. Although small in stature, he was a man with gigantic dreams who was far ahead of his time.