Fundraiser caps banner year for youth sports advocates in group

Roughly 1,000 people filled the convention center as the memorabilia – a signed Walter Payton Jersey, Footballs with the John Hancock of Nick Saban, and tickets to the Emerald Coast Classic got snapped up by bidders. 


The lights were low on the crows as All Sports Association members wore blue blazers with red name tags and peered at tables to see the next bid. 


After all was said and done, auctioned memorabilia raised $138,500 for youth sports around the Choctawhatchee Bay area. 


But that wasn’t really the staggering number to me – in the last 20 years, the organization raised $3,000,000 to support youth sports. Some $300,000 of that money came in just the last year alone. 


RELATED: Emerald Coast area experiences critical shortage in game officials.


Local athletes included Byron Cotton – the tennis-playing amateur of the year from Bluewater Bay. From further afield came Dillan Gibbons, a Kipling-quoting offensive lineman earning his MBA, to hard-charging New York Jets running back Michael Carter. Carter’s wardrobe featured two hits of the evening – a wry smile and a crocheted sweater.


Gibbons would take home the event’s main prize – the Danny Weurfful trophy. 


Niceville High School Graduate and SMU Women’s Golf Team member Lauren Miller won the Female Collegiate Athlete award. The honor lauded her play on the course, academic success, and community service efforts. 


RELATED: Niceville Police Officer wins 2022 Amateur Athlete Award from All Sports Association

Speech by Chad Hennings

The headliner for the evening was former A-10 Pilot and three-time Super Bowl Champion with the Dallas Cowboys, Chad Hennings. Hennings talked with the group about being your own person. Hennings quoted Nietschze, Victor Frankl, and The Bible to encourage the members and guests to find their ‘why.’ “A man can endure any how, as long as he has a ‘why,’” he quoted the 19th-century nihilist philosopher. 


In addition to meaning, Hennings regaled the audience with stories from his life – including how he got from the literal battlefield in northern Iraq to the gridiron for Super Bowl XXVII to play for the Cowboys against the Buffalo Bills. 

Hennings wrapped up the night with a short question and answer session with Bernard Johnson – an All Sports Association Member, External Affairs Representative for Gulf Power, and the evening’s Emcee.

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bearded man in suit
Dillan Gibbons, the 2023 Danny Weurffel trophy recipient. 📸: Ryals Lee, Jr.

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