On a soggy Sunday afternoon in May, Pittsburgh residents gathered at the Westin Convention Center Hotel Downtown to attend the third annual New Pittsburgh Courier All-City Awards Luncheon, honoring the best players and coaches in football and basketball.

GIVING SUPPORT—Judge Dwayne Woodruff with wife Joy.

The luncheon, which was re-established in 2008 at the behest of Assistant to the Publisher Stephan Broadus, honored inner-city high school athletes and their coaches for outstanding performances in football and basketball. Courier Managing Editor, Ulish Carter, Advertising Manager Eric Gaines, and Editor and Publisher, Rod Doss, joined Broadus to hand out trophies and medals; Gaines also gave the invocation.

The event was organized by Save the Date Creative Services, which does all of the Courier’s events, and the trophies were provided by H.J. Heinz Co.

“These kids are important in the city schools and it’s up to us to recognize their achievements,” said Broadus, “so I think it’s the most important event that we do.”

“There’s been no coverage given to the city teams. The Courier, I think, is still the only [newspaper] that provides week to week coverage of all these high school athletes and their accomplishments. So we thought it was time to…celebrate them, bring them out and showcase them with awards and give them their moment in the sun,” asserted Doss. “Competition is good, it’s healthy…life is competitive. So as a consequence, the training that they get, the exposure, and the teaching they get from their coaches helps them [develop] a competitive spirit that helps them succeed in life…very important.”

Delayed by half an hour because of the Pittsburgh Marathon, the luncheon was emceed by Pittsburgh native and lifetime sports enthusiast, Brian Cook, producer and national sports reporter for the American Urban Radio Networks.

“I love to reach back to the youth of Pittsburgh. So, it’s just my way of giving back to the community, being emcee for…young athletes,” said Cook, who broadcasts from Pittsburgh.

Student nominees were selected by their coaches and all nominees—including Coach of the Year—were voted on by the coaches, the reporter who covered the beat, and the photographer who covered the beat, explained Carter. Once all the votes were in, he tabulated them and compiled the lists of first and second teams, offense and defense; the All-City special team; MVP, offense and defense; and Coach of the Year for football; and lists of first, second and third teams; honorable mentions; MVP’s; and coaches of the year, for boys and girls basketball.

“We deal with academics all the time, but athletes need to be recognized as well,” said Carter. “Some people look down on athletics but name me a school that doesn’t benefit from having an athletic program. And (participating in athletics) helps you be a better leader because you learn to work as part of a team instead of as an individual. And it helps you to relate to other people,” added the former sports reporter.

Guest speaker, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge and retired Steelers great, Dwayne Woodruff, gave an inspirational speech about optimism, character and perseverance, among other things, drawing on his experiences as a Steeler and student at Duquesne University where he earned his Juris Doctorate degree. “Hard work, commitment, loyalty to each other…those are the things that make up championship teams; those are the things that make up championship partnerships,” said Woodruff in his speech.

Later in his speech, he offered this advice, “Don’t let anybody tell you you cannot achieve something that’s worthwhile. Any goal that you have that’s worthwhile, you can achieve it. Just because no one has done it, just because they don’t think you’re smart enough, just because they don’t think you’re good enough…you can still do it. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t succeed.”

After Woodruff’s speech, it was time to start handing out the awards. The 2009 All-City coaches of the year were Jason Bell of Schenley High School for football, Andre McDonald of Allderdice High School for boys basketball, and Ed Allison of Perry High School for girls basketball. The season’s most valuable players were Andre Irish of Schenley High School, defensive MVP and Manasseh Garner of Brashear High School—not in attendance—offensive MVP for football. Ishmael Swain of Allderdice High School and Dashawna Carey of Perry High School were MVP’s for boys and girls basketball, respectively.

Bell not only felt honored to receive his award, but he was proud of those players who were honored that afternoon, too. “They deserve it. They’ve worked hard all year round,” he said. Except for DeAndre Black, all are seniors and all will attend college, some on full scholarships. “There’s a lot of kids that are getting a chance to get outside of the city…and become good citizens for Pittsburgh.”

Irish, who will attend Saint Francis University, though undecided about his major, felt especially honored. “It’s big, you know, to be the first [defensive] tackle to win this award; it’s big because it’s hard for us d-tackles to win this award…but it feels great and I’m going to keep it up in my future.”

Ed Allison was very proud of himself and of his players. “It’s very exciting; I’m very excited [this] being my first time [receiving this award as a head coach]. I had a great team around me that worked hard and we peaked at the right time of the year.” Except for Marritta Gillcrease, all of Allison’s honored players are college bound seniors. One of them is the girls basketball MVP.

“It felt good,” said Carey about being selected as MVP. “I worked hard, and I have my team and my coach to thank.” Though undecided about what school she wants to attend, she’s certain about wanting to major in business management.

“It feels great,” said Swain, who will attend Miami Dade University as a nursing major. “I’m very proud of myself!”

Westinghouse High School basketball coach, Kenneth Roebuck, attended to show his support for all Westinghouse honorees but, particularly for players Fleming Davis and Deaundre Epperson, who won awards for first team and third team, respectively, and two players who were honorable mentioned in boys’ basketball.

“Sports are very good for our society today because it keeps [students] out of trouble, but also because it teaches them that you’re going to win some, but you’re also going to lose some,” said Roebuck.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Anthony Cosby, whose son, Darrell, won an award for second team, offense in football and an honorable mention for men’s basketball. “They put all the hard work in it and then at the end when it’s over, they get recognized for it, which gives them the incentive to do more…so this is a nice thing they have.” The younger Cosby, who also plays baseball and soccer, will be attending Cheney University.

Allison Pryor, whose son, David, won an award for second team, offense in football, said she was very excited for and proud of her son, who’s been playing sports since third grade. “I think it is [important to recognize student ath

letes] just to give them some kind of inspiration, to make them feel like they’re accomplishing something.

You know, give them some excitement in life,” she smiled.

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