2009 Dapper Dan Awards: Mike Tomlin & Shavonte Zellous
Mike Tomlin & Shavonte Zellous
Dick LeBeau celebrates the AFC title at Heinz Field last month with one of his linebackers, Lawrence Timmons. LeBeau just completed his 50th season in the NFL.
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During the shared experience of a championship season, Mike Tomlin became the youngest coach to take his team to the Super Bowl, and Dick LeBeau had the distinction of being the NFL's oldest coordinator.
At the 73rd annual Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction presented by BNY Mellon, they'll share the spotlight along with Pitt senior basketball player Shavonte Zellous.
Tomlin has been named the 2008 sportsman of the year while LeBeau, an ageless wonder at 71, has been chosen for a lifetime achievement award. Zellous, a cornerstone in the turnaround of the women's basketball program at Pitt, is the 2008 sportswoman of the year.
• What: The 73rd annual Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction.
• When: 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. dinner, will be held April 2.
• Where: Petersen Events Center.
• Tickets: All seating will be on the court level. Prices are $200 for premium seats, $150 for general seats, and $100 for courtside. Call the Dapper Dan Hotline at 412-263-3850 to purchase tickets.
• Honorees: Sportsman and Sportswoman of the year for 2008 are Mike Tomlin, coach of the Steelers, and Shavonte Zellous of the Pitt women's basketball team. In addition, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will receive the lifetime achievement award.
• Also: The Danny Awards will also be announced for best play, best moment and breakthrough athlete of 2008. To vote, go to www.post-gazette.com/dapperdan.
• Of note: The Dapper Dan was founded in 1936 by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports editor Al Abrams. The primary beneficiary since the 1990s is the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania.
The dinner will be held Thursday, April 2, beginning with a 6 p.m. reception, at the Petersen Events Center on the Pitt campus.
Tomlin, 36, joins his two immediate predecessors, both of whom coached Super Bowl winners, as Dapper Dan honorees. Chuck Noll received the award for 1972, the first time in franchise history the Steelers won a division title and won a playoff game. Bill Cowher won it in 1992, his first with the Steelers. He was honored again for the 1994 season.
But Tomlin has already earned a special niche. No other coach has won two division titles or won 22 regular-season games in his first two seasons. That, and a sixth crown for the team's trophy case, made him an obvious choice to be embraced by his new hometown.
"It's a great honor," Tomlin said.
Although he didn't hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Super Bowl night, he has since lifted the silver football and had his picture taken with it while flanked by Dan Rooney and his son, Art II. But Tomlin and his staff already are hard at work evaluating prospective draft picks ahead in advance of the NFL Combine.
"I'm always moving to new challenges," said Tomlin, who was named the 2008 Motorola coach of the year in voting by fans. "I'm a moving on kind of guy."
LeBeau, the mastermind behind the NFL's stingiest defense in 2008, joins some rare company with his award. Previous honorees for lifetime achievement were Arnold Palmer, Joe Paterno and Dan Rooney.
"That's some pretty heady company," said LeBeau, the most respected and revered coordinator in the game today. "I'm honored and humbled. It's more than I deserve. It's dizzying stuff."
LeBeau just completed a half-century in pro football. A cornerback for 14 seasons for the Detroit Lions, he still holds the NFL mark of 171 consecutive games played at his position, and his 62 career interceptions rank seventh all-time. He has been a coach at various levels for various organizations since 1973.
The franchise he works for now was just four years old, and the Dapper Dan was one year old, when he was born in 1937.
When asked about his age in the run-up to the Super Bowl, LeBeau got a laugh from the media by voicing a riff from the late James Brown, the self-proclaimed hardest working man in show business.
"I don't know how you're supposed to feel at age 71," LeBeau said, "but I feel good. Da, da, da, da, da, da, dum..."
Meanwhile, with the dinner tables to be at court level for the awards banquet, Zellous will feel right at home. It is on the Peterson Events Center court that she helped Pitt qualify for its first-ever appearance in the NCAA women's tournament and then led the team to the Sweet 16 in 2008.
Lightly recruited out of Jones High School in Orlando, Fla., she has surpassed 2,000 points for her career and is averaging more than 23 points per game this season.
"I just think it's an awesome honor for Shavonte," said Pitt coach Agnus Berenato, a two-time winner of the sportswoman of the year award. "[She] stands for all the right things, and she had done so much for this university on and off the court."
Zellous got the word from her coach, and it left her searching for words.
"My mouth just dropped and a big smile hit my face," she said. "This is not just an award for me, but for our whole team, because my teammates and coaches make everything possible for me. I can't describe it really. I'm just very honored."
In addition to the individual honors, results of the "Danny Awards" for best play, best moment and breakthrough athlete of 2008 will be announced. Voting is being done through March 15 at www.post-gazette.com/dapperdan. A celebration of the Super Bowl victory, and the distinction of being the first franchise to win six trophies, will be marked with player appearances.
The Dapper Dan is the city's oldest, largest and most prestigious sports banquet. Proceeds from the event benefit the youth sports and education programs of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.
First Published February 15, 2009 12:00 am