HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: A big season for awards

Jose Altuve and J.J. Watt. Sports Illustrated

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

Humbled & Honored.

Short and sweet. Simple and honest.

But, most of all, J.J. Watt’s opening line was straight from the heart.

So was the second.

Houston, this is for you and this is for the hundreds of thousands of people who donated from all over the world.

What followed on his Twitter feed Tuesday was an exclamation point to 2017 – a cover shot of the Texans defensive end and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve with their arms thrown around each other’s shoulders having a great time posing for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year issue.

If ever a year belonged to one city, this year was it.

An August to forget. A late October to remember. #HoustonStrong

And now an awards season like no other.

Everywhere you look, the city’s top athletes are taking center stage.

Watt raised the city on his shoulders after Hurricane Harvey and raised more than $37 million for relief effort before a freak knee injury ended his comeback season. Altuve, the Astros pint-sized American League batting champion, captured the hearts and imagination of the country as he led the Astros on an amazing run to their first World Series Championship.

SI honored the duo’s power which was unmatched in September when the city started to bounce back from Harvey, which devastated neighborhoods and caused close to $200 billion in damages.

The Astros, meanwhile, took down Major League baseball’s elite teams in the playoffs – Boston, the New York Yankees and LA Dodgers, in order – and simply dominated the MLB awards:

*Altuve won the American League MVP and shared best postseason player with teammate Justin Verlander.

* A.J. Hinch was named manager of the year and General Manager Jeff Luhnow took executive of the year honors.

* George Springer was the World Series MVP and Alex Bregman owned the moment of the year with his 10th inning walk-off single in Game 5’s 13-12 Astros win.

* Carlos Beltran won SI’s Hope Award for his hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

* The MLB even honored Houstonian Kirk Head with catch of the year when he took Yasiel Puig’s homerun ball from his sister-in –law Sarah and threw it back onto the field during Game 5 of the World Series.

* University of Houston sophomore Ed Oliver won the 2017 Outland Trophy Thursday night, was named 2017 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and is a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski Award.

* And, if he hadn’t torn his ACL in practice in early November, Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson would likely have been in the running, at the very least, for rookie of the year.

Now, as we prepare for 2018, there are still a few awards left to hand out.

All those national award winners above could also be among those taking bows at the inaugural Houston Sports Awards Feb. 8 at the Hilton-Americas Downtown. But, with 10 different awards, you’ll see many more outstanding Houston athletes walking the red carpet.

"The athlete and executive that may win the award may very likely win it in their league as well," Rockets president Tad Brown said when the Awards were announced in September. "That shows the quality of teams that we have here."

Brown was, to say the least, prescient.

From three different Athletes of the Year to Executive of the Year, Fan of the Year and Event of the Year, Houston Sports Awards ballots will be stacked with talent, heart and must-see moments.

You already know the event is honoring Houston’s famous No. 34s – Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon – and we’ll add a few more names to the mix soon. Plus, we’ll be revealing the nominees for seven categories next week, so stay tuned.

For everything you need to know about Houston Sports Awards – everything from categories to how to purchase tickets -- go to www.houstonsportsawards.com

###

Always wanted season tickets? Each time you purchase a 2018 Houston Sports Awards Golden Ticket Raffle, you buy a chance to win a pair of season tickets to all Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Houston Dynamo, Rodeo Houston & Houston Open home games/events during the 2018-19 season. In addition, the winner of the drawing receives tickets for two Houston Texans home games, the 2018 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff and the 2018 Texas Bowl. Information is available at www.houstonsportsawards.com

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome