Even though Seahawks colors glowed throughout the room, the UW Huskies made their presence felt as well. UW men’s crew won sports story of the year and UW women’s basketball player Katie Collier won the inspirational award.
The Paramount Theater was bathed in the cool glow of green and blue lights that lit up the walls running the length of the room at the MTR Western Sports Star awards banquet on Wednesday night.
An apt setting in which to crown the newest Male Sports Star of the Year – Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett.
Bennett, who led the Seahawks with 10 sacks last season, beat out a list of nominees that included the Mariners’ Nelson Cruz, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, Seattle U men’s soccer coach Pete Fewing, UW men’s golfer Cheng-Tsung Pan and Sounders favorite Clint Dempsey.
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He won over the crowd, too.
“I hope you guys aren’t sore losers like Cam Newton,” Bennett said in his acceptance speech, referring to his fellow nominees.
As the room erupted into laughter, Bennett couldn’t resist another jab at the Carolina Panthers quarterback, who took heat this week for not jumping on a loose ball in Super Bowl 50.
“I would have dove for that football,” Bennett said, keying another round of laughs.
“So many young players love the fame and all the stuff that comes with it, but there’s only a couple of true competitors in the NFL,” Bennett said backstage later in an interview with reporters.
Bennett had to earn his fame the hard way. He went undrafted out of college in 2009 and signed with the Seahawks, but was cut six months later. He re-signed with Seattle in 2013, and has played some of the best football of his career in his second stint with the Seahawks.
“I never wanted to leave Seattle,” Bennett said. “The fact that I came back and won a Super Bowl with one of the best teams ever is kinda cool.
“It’s just cool to be here and get this award from the city. When you get awards from other places, it doesn’t mean as much as when you get awards from your city.”
Even though Seahawks colors glowed throughout the room, the UW Huskies made their presence felt as well.
Based on a public vote, the “Sports Story of the Year” that most impressed Seattleites unfolded last May, when the UW men’s rowing team’s became the first collegiate team in history to win five consecutive Intercollegiate Rowing Association championships, and the Huskies’ sixth national title in Michael Callahan’s eight years as head coach.
Ten members of the UW rowing team accepted their award in person.
“Seattle is such a unique place to row because there’s not a city that supports the sport like Seattle does,” said Eric Ledbetter, a senior on the UW rowing team. “Team-wise, it’s not just us. You can only be here for four years. There’s guys from (the) 2008 team who come up to me and say, ‘You’ve vindicated what we started.’ ”
Seattle Reign FC forward Megan Rapinoe beat out Special Olympian Kamilah Williamson, the Seattle Storm’s Jewell Loyd and three Huskies nominees – basketball’s Kelsey Plum, golf coach Mary Lou Mulflur and volleyball’s Lianna Sybeldon – to claim Female Star of the Year honors. Rapinoe was unable to attend the event, but thanked her fans through a pre-recorded video message.
Katie Collier, a junior center on the UW women’s basketball team who battled leukemia and a torn ACL to become a starter this season, was honored with the Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Wayne Gittinger Inspirational Award.
Former Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro won the Keith Jackson Award, longtime Sonics owner Ginger Ackerley was honored with the Paul Allen Award for significant philanthropic contributions, and Huskies and Seahawks Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon was honored with the Royal Brougham Award for lifetime achievement in the state of Washington.