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

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

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/

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros play Game 1 of the ALDS Tuesday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

With a nod to Charles Dickens, October is the best of times (Astros) and the worst of times (Texans and Rockets) for Houston sports fans. At least this October.

October is the one month when all three of Houston’s major sports teams are guaranteed to be in full swing at the same time. It’s possible, if the Astros make the World Series that November will have all three teams in action, too. But let’s not jinx things.

The Astros start their playoff run Tuesday on TBS. Since the Yankees also play that day, also on TBS, we can assume the Astros will get the daytime slot, the Yankees in prime time. Now before Astros fans start screaming east coast bias, it really only applies to TV. Fun fact: no New York Met has ever won an MVP Award, and only one Yankee has won it in the past 37 years – Alex Rodriguez in 2005 and 2007. How’d that work out for him? Most important, a New York team has won the World Series only once in the past two decades – the Yankees in 2009.

The Astros could play as many as 15 more games in October, five in the Division Series, seven in the League Championship Series and three in the World Series before the calendar flips to November.

Meanwhile, the Texans plod on with three more games in October, and the Rockets have 11.

The winless Texans are at home against the Titans at NRG Stadium, on the road against the Jaguars and Raiders.

The Rockets, coming off the worst record in the NBA last season, have three games at home at Toyota Center and eight on the road.

This presents a problem of abundance, an embarrassment of riches, for Houston sports junkies. Who are you going to watch on TV? Which team will you pay to watch in person? Who are you rooting for the most? Whose jersey will you buy?

David Puddy is right, you “gotta support the team,” but who will own Houston this month?

What to do? If it’s true that nothing succeeds like success, and everybody loves a winner – it’s an obvious choice.

The Astros.

The Astros just completed their regular season with 106 wins, second most in franchise history, another American League West title, the best record in the American League and will have home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Even though fans had high hopes for the Astros entering 2022, the team smashed everybody’s expectations. Vegas put the Astros over/under wins at 92 games. The Astros seemingly flew by that number during spring training.

They are the first team in American League history to win 100 games in four of their last five full seasons. Not even Babe Ruth’s Yankees of the 1920s and 1930s did that. This core of Astros has won five of the last six American League West titles. They’ve played in three of the last five World Series. This is a dynasty right before our eyes. We’re witness to greatness. How ‘bout them Astros?

What a season it was. Who could have figured that 39-year-old Justin Verlander, out of action for two seasons after Tommy John surgery, would have a career year, a ridiculously skinny earned run average and the overwhelming pick for the Cy Young Award? Jose Altuve would return to a .300 batting average, Cristian Javier would lead the team in strikeouts, Yordan Alvarez would finish No. 2 between Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in OPS, and rookie Jeremy Pena would slug 22 home runs, the same number as Carlos Correa? Remember last offseason and cries of “pay the man!” Some of a team’s best deals are the ones they don’t make.

Strap yourself in for an October to remember. The storylines are endless. There’s bad blood between the Astros and the Yankees, between the Astros and Dodgers, between the Astros and boo birds in every stadium not named Minute Maid Park.

It’s going to be fun.

As for the Texans, Deshaun Watson returns to action Nov. 4 against the Texans here at NRG Stadium. And we’ll catch up with the Rockets when the NBA season starts for real on Christmas Day. But until then … play ball!

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome