Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson brought a fresh and famous face to a room already filled with winners at Wednesday night’s 2017 Bluegrass Sports Awards banquet in Lexington.
Jackson closed the evening’s festivities by accepting the Lexington Herald-Leader’s 2016 Kentucky Sports Figure of the Year award. The University of Louisville quarterback — the youngest Heisman winner ever at age 19 in December — arrived at the Lexington Convention Center’s Bluegrass Ballroom already having won the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award and The Associated Press’s National Player of the Year award in addition to the Heisman. He claimed Kentucky Sports Figure honors by the largest margin in the 36-year history of the award.
“I appreciate being invited to Lexington for this award — even though we’re rivals,” Jackson said. “Thank you to you all. Thank you to my teammates for allowing me to win this award. And, go Cards.”
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Also Wednesday night, the sponsoring Bluegrass Sports Commission presented five awards highlighting the achievements of sports figures who have made a difference in the lives of Kentuckians.
Don Lane, Larry Collmus, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Billy Reed and Kim Sweazy were recognized during the sixth annual banquet.
“Our award winners have had unparalleled success in their respective industries and are very deserving,” Bluegrass Sports Commission president and CEO Brian Miller said upon announcing the recipients in December. “This event has grown into one of the bigger nights celebrating the sports industry in Kentucky.”
Two awards were presented that were named for Lexington native and NBC broadcaster Tom Hammond.
▪ The Tom Hammond Sports Media Award for national accomplishments went to Collmus, the former track announcer for Churchill Downs currently with the New York Racing Association and the voice of the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup broadcasts on NBC.
▪ The Tom Hammond Kentucky Sports Media Award was presented to Reed, a Mount Sterling native who has spent the better part of 40 years covering major sporting events around the country for such publications as the Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times, and the Churchill Downs website. A three-time recipient of the Eclipse Award and an eight-time Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year, Reed is a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame.
Two additional awards were presented in the name of National College Basketball Hall of Famer Jim Host, the founder of Host Communications of Lexington.
▪ The Jim Host Sports Business Award went to the Ramseys. They own Ramsey Farm, a 1,200-acre horse breeding operation in Nicholasville and have raced horses at tracks throughout the United States. They have multiple graded stakes winners, three Breeders’ Cup winners, and the Ramseys themselves have won multiple Eclipse Awards for outstanding owner and breeder.
▪ Lane was honored with the Jim Host Youth Sports Award. Lane was inducted into the Kentucky Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004 after a 26-year career as head coach at Transylvania, during which he compiled a 509-245 record. He is also a member of the Transylvania Athletic Hall of Fame and the Union College Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sweazy received the Bobby Flynn Volunteer of the Year Award. Sweazy dedicates the majority of her efforts to the Children’s Charity Fund of the Bluegrass, for which she has been president for 10 years. The organization oversees the annual Children’s Charity Celebrity Golf Classic. Since its launch, CCFB has raised more than $11 million for agencies that benefit Central Kentucky children.
Proceeds from Wednesday night’s banquet benefit the Bluegrass Sports Commission and its efforts to grow sports tourism in Central Kentucky.