Dapper Dan Honors - Ditka, doctor to receive awards

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A Super Bowl winning coach and player and a doctor who has spent his life keeping athletes safe will be honored at the 76th Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction later this year.

Aliquippa native Mike Ditka, who won a Super Bowl as a player with the Dallas Cowboys and another as coach of the Chicago Bears, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the dinner March 12 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Dr. Freddie Fu, who helped found the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, will receive the Sports Leadership Award.

"It's an award for my whole team," Fu said. "I just happen to be a part of it."


SPORTSMAN NOMINEES
  • Dan Bylsma: The Penguins coach received the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's Most Outstanding Coach after leading the Penguins to the playoffs without injured stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Maklin.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury: The goalie was named the Penguins' MVP the same year he earned his first All-Star selection. He had a 2.32 goals-against average.
  • Joel Hanrahan: The Pirates' closer did not blow a save in the first half of the season as the Pirates cruised to the best start since 1993.
  • Ben Roethlisberger: He has the Steelers poised for another postseason run one year after leading the team to its third trip to the Super Bowl in the past six years.
  • Rushel Shell: The Hopewell senior and Pitt recruit rushed for 2,312 yards this season and set a Pennsylvania record for most career rushing yards.
  • Hines Ward: He won "Dancing with the Stars" and acted in the new Batman movie. He also eclipsed the 12,000-yard receiving mark and honed in on his 1,000th career reception.

SPORTSWOMAN NOMINEES
  • Brianna Delaney: A senior forward on the Robert Morris women's hockey team, Delaney is now the Colonials' all-time leading scorer, a mark she set earlier this season.
  • Kristen DiCiocco: A junior goaltender for the Colonials, she is among the best in the country in goals-against average, winning percentage and save percentage.
  • Alex Gensler: The Dukes' senior is averaging 15 ppg this season and led the team in scoring last year, when Duquesne earned a WNIT berth. Gensler is an Upper St. Clair alumna.
  • Pittsburgh Passion: The women's professional football team featured four All-Americans and had a perfect regular season in 2011 before losing in the playoffs.

Fu has spent most of his professional life in Pittsburgh, where he is chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The Center for Sports Medicine, which Fu oversees, is recognized as one of the most influential research centers in the world. It attracts not only patients from around the world but also medical personnel, who come to Pittsburgh to learn from Fu's team.

"Something I'm proud of is we've trained 500 people from all over the world," he said. "They learn in Pittsburgh and go back to wherever they're from."

Although he has helped develop new techniques to treat injuries, Fu said his biggest motivation is injury prevention and the safety of athletes.

He was instrumental in reforms to high school athletics -- where he advocated each school have an athletic trainer and an ambulance on site at football games. He has been the Mt. Lebanon team physician since 1982.

A Dartmouth College graduate and Hong Kong native, he was a little unsure of Pittsburgh when he first arrived as a student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the late 1970s. It was nothing like Hanover, N.H., nor Hong Kong.

But he quickly grew to love the town and its people.

The Point Breeze resident has had several professional opportunities to leave, but he has little interest in doing so.

"Pittsburgh is my home now," he said.

Fu is the second recipient of the Sports Leadership award. Race car owner Chip Ganassi won in 2010.

Ditka, 72, was an All-American tight end at Pitt before embarking on a successful professional career. He won three Super Bowls and one NFL Championship and was a five-time Pro Bowl selectee. He is enshrined in both the college and pro football halls of fame.

He was just as good as a coach -- where he was known as a firebrand and passionate leader. He led the 1985 Bears to the Super Bowl -- widely recognized as one of the greatest teams in NFL history. Ditka was twice named The Associated Press' coach of the year. He also was honored by Dapper Dan in 2001.

He has spent the past several years as an NFL analyst for ESPN and once co-starred in a comedy with former Saturday Night Live actor Will Ferrell.

Tickets for the 76th Annual Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction will go on sale later this month. The public can vote for Sportsman and Sportswoman of the year through Jan. 13 either by mail or at www.post-gazette.com/dapperdanvote.


Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com , 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published January 1, 2012 5:00 AM


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