TAMPA — The fourth annual Sneaker Soiree was filled with some serious moments Wednesday night — and highlighted by a few memorable quips.
In accepting one of the evening’s major awards, former Bucs linebacker and Florida State standout Derrick Brooks couldn’t stop himself from taking a playful jab at the Florida Gators.
“My passion is youth education,” said Brooks, who helped create the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa. “Time is our greatest resource. When you give of your time, you don’t add, you multiply. Multiplying is bigger than adding. I learned that at Florida State. I don’t know if they teach that in Gainesville.”
The master of ceremonies for the event was ESPN anchor Sara Walsh, a star soccer player at Gulf High in New Port Richey 20 years ago.
“Tampa is home to me,’’ said Walsh, who was accompanied by her parents, both still Pasco County residents. “We truly live in one of the great cities in the country.’’
Also in the crowd at the Pepin Hospitality Center were Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and University of South Florida football coach Willie Taggart.
A round-table featuring Rays manager Joe Maddon, Lightning coach Jon Cooper and new Bucs general manager Jason Licht generated some big laughs from an audience of civic and business leaders.
The panelists were asked what photo taken of them would have been most embarrassing if they grew up in the era of social media.
“A picture of me involved in some sort of competitive drinking,” said Licht.
Cooper took it a step further.
“I don’t know,’’ he said, “but my clothes probably would have been off.”
Maddon tried to take the high road.
“Hanging out at the library,” he said, although few believed him.
Asked to name their sports idols, Maddon mentioned Joe Namath. Licht, a former Colorado resident, singled out John Elway, while Cooper noted that he named his dog Gretzky after hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.
The night also included memorial tributes to Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer and Rays adviser Don Zimmer.
Three major awards were announced.
The Freddie Solomon Moral Courage Award went to 8-year-old Gavin Lambert, who has excelled in sports despite being diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease. The Tom McEwen Community Advocate Award was given to Jeff Adams, a civil trial lawyer instrumental in landing sports events for Tampa Bay.
Brooks, now president of the Tampa Bay Storm, was the recipient of the Lee Roy Selmon Lifetime Achievement Award.
“There’s lots of inspiring stories here tonight,’’ said Brooks, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. “Knowing what Lee Roy meant to this community and to me personally, I got the chills when I got the news of this award, wondering whether I was worthy. I just want to do my best to carry on the legacy of Mr. Selmon.’’
Three local athletes were also honored.
Durant pitcher Chelsea Baker is the first female prep baseball player in Hillsborough County, Jefferson football player Ernest Mills overcame numerous surgeries to treat burns, and Declan Farmer, a double leg amputee, excels at sled hockey and made the U.S. national team.
After a 4-12 season that ushered in a massive overhaul, the Bucs were honored with their Moment of the Year ... the unveiling of new logos and uniforms.
Hours after the Rays dropped to 28-45 with a 2-0 loss to Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon, Maddon urged the crowd to keep the faith.
“I believe in our group and our system,’’ he said. “As we’re attempting to make history once again, please stay with us. We’re not quitting by any means — and we never will.’’