The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider

Watt, Fertitta headline Houston honorees

Tilman Fertitta made the Fertitta Center a reality. Houston Cougars Men's Hoops Facebook

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One is Houston's Captain America. The other is a visionary businessman who makes things happen.

And, not coincidentally, they are two of the biggest names in Houston sports.

Yes, we're talking J.J. Watt and Tilman Fertitta – two men who make things happen; two men who are being honored with Legacy Awards February 6 at the Houston Sports Awards presented by Insperity.

Watt, the Houston Texans all-everything defensive end is being honored with the Sportsmanship Award for the second year, while Fertitta, the Houston Rockets owner, will receive the Executive of the Year Award presented by Mercedes-Benz Dealers of Greater Houston. They join the late President George H.W. and wife Barbara Bush as the three Legacy Award winners. The Bushes will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Watt, the Houston Texans all-everything defensive end, has captivated the nation and become as dominant off the field as he is on it with his commitment to giving back to the Houston area.

What started with a YouCaringFund that raised $41.6 million for Hurricane Harvey relief in 2017 and continued through 2018 when he offered to pay for the funerals of the 10 victims of the Santa Fe High school shooting has become a career-defining commitment for the NFL's 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year. Watt's generosity and compassion set the tone for others to follow as the entire area – teams, athletes and individuals -- reached out to help and support the Santa Fe community.

Last year he cancelled his annual J.J. Watt Charity Classic to focus on hurricane relief efforts but announced it would return in May of 2019.

His charitable side is matched only by his relentlessness on the field. The 29-year-old Pro Bowler and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year played just eight games in two seasons because of a broken leg, a herniated disk and two surgeries. This year, he has has stepped back onto the field as the heart of the Texans defense and has been such a force, he's mentioned as a Player of the Year candidate.

He's the NFL's all-time leader in sacks per game, averaging 0.89 per contest, edging out the late Hall of Famer Reggie White (0.85).

Fertitta has been a force in real estate and restaurants for decades, but his vision and business savvy have also made a huge impact on Houston sports. In his first season as Rockets owner, Fertitta saw his team win a regular-season team record 65 games and advance to the Western Conference Finals where they lost in Game 7 to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. During the season, Fertitta worked to involve the entire community with the team and impacted the Houston sports scene.

As Chairman of the UH System Board of Regents, he has been instrumental in a campaign to modernize UH's athletic facilities. Fertitta's $20 million gift to the University of Houston – the single largest individual donation in UH history – helped transform Hofheinz Pavilion, now Fertitta Center, into a modern 7,100-seat arena. The opening of the Center was a two-night affair with an invitation-only ceremony November 29 followed by the UH-Oregon basketball game December 1. The Cougars upset then-18th-ranked Oregon 65-61. The opening is one of the nominees for Event of the Year.

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority also announced the finalists for six other awards Thursday.

Olympic gold medalist and four-time World Champion Simone Biles, Rockets guard and 2018 MVP James Harden, Astros' third baseman Alex Bregman and Texans' wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins are the nominees for Athlete of the Year, while 2018 Outland Trophy winner Ed Oliver and UH teammate D'Eriq King, former UH guard Rob Gray and Texas A&M's Trayveon Williams are the nominees for College Athlete of the Year.

Coach of the Year nominees are Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, UH basketball coach Kelvin Sampson and Texans' coach Bill O'Brien. Moment of the year nominees are the Opening of Fertitta Center, Rodeo Houston, the Texans' Monday Night Football win over Tennessee/Celebration of late owner Bob McNair, and the NBA Western Conference Finals.

Hopkins' spin catch against the Dallas Cowboys, Biles' World Championship, Santa Fe High's first 2018 football game and the Houston Dynamo winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are nominees for Moment of the Year.

St. Pius X quarterback Grant Gunnell, Woodlands track and field/football graduate Kesean Carter, Cy Ranch volleyball and wrestling star Kaitlyn Banas and Cy Woods Volleyball and basketball star Cate Reese are the High School Athlete of the Year nominees.

# # #

Looking for a Christmas gift for a Houston sports fan in your life? Consider buying him or her a ticket for the 2019 Houston Sports Awards Golden Ticket Raffle.

There are only 500 tickets available and the winner will take home a pair of season tickets to all Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Houston Dynamo, Houston Dash and Rodeo Houston home games/events during the 2019-20 season. The winner will also receive tickets to two Texans home games and to the Academy Sports + Outdoors 2019 Texas Bowl.

Raffle tickets can be purchased for $100 per ticket and that enters you into the drawing for all the above-mentioned tickets.

All proceeds from Golden Ticket sales benefit Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Foundation and the winner of drawn at the Houston Sports Awards. Winners do not need to be present to win. To enter go to https://houstonsportsawards.com/golden-ticket-raffle/

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Correa knows it's time for his payday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rangers made a big splash over the weekend when they agreed to terms on a 7-year $175 million contract with infielder Marcus Semien. Apparently, that was just the tip of the iceberg. According to multiple reports, the Rangers have also added arguably the most coveted player in free agency, Corey Seager. Seager and the Rangers have agreed to a massive 10-year $325 million contract.

Before the Seager news broke, many were starting to wonder if teams would be willing to hand out 10-year deals for over 300 million dollars with the lockout just around the corner. Now we have our answer, and Carlos Correa has to be a very happy man to see how the market is shifting. The Rangers not only added two incredible players, but they also made it pretty much a certainty that Correa will either leave Houston, or the Astros will have to sign him to a long-term $300 million deal, which is not likely based on their stance on multi-year big money contracts.

The Rangers aren't the only team in the AL West making blockbuster moves. The Mariners agreed to terms with 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on Monday. Ray and Seattle agreed to a 5-year, $115 million contract.

The Angels joined in on the action a couple of weeks ago when they signed Noah Syndergard to a 1-year 21 million dollar deal.

Clearly, the AL West is on notice that they're going to have to make big changes if they want to compete with the Houston Astros who have dominated the AL recently with 5 straight ALCS appearances and 3 trips to the World Series. With Correa likely out the door in Houston, these teams might believe this is a perfect time to make a run at the division and finally knock off the Astros. Only time will tell if these deals will work, and the Astros look to have a terrific team this season whether Correa returns or not.

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