Hammond High School junior and basketball player Essien Ture, whose basketball career was threatened last year when he lost nearly half of his right leg, will be given an Ed Block Courage Award on March 16. (Jon Sham/Baltimore Sun video)
The marquee event of the Ed Block Courage awards is Monday night's gala, where a player from each NFL team will be honored for the courage and sportsmanship they showed this past season.
However, the banquet, which will take place at the Hilton Baltimore, is just a small part of the Ed Block Foundation's annual event. This morning, several of the honorees, including Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb, visited patients at St. Vincent's Villa, a treatment center for children with emotional and behavioral challenges.
On Monday morning, players will stop by the Chick Webb Recreation Center in Baltimore to spend time with kids.
"All the guys that care coming in, 90 to 95 percent of them, are going to be participating in all the events," said Paul Mittermeier, the director of communications for the Ed Block Foundation. "We talk about our gala, but the most important things that happen during the whole weekend is the fact that these guys are going to be at St. Vincent's, and do an outreach at the Chick Webb. That's what we're all about."
This year's class of Ed Block award winners features NFL stars such as Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski,
"This is my eighth year and I've gone through the history," Mittermeier said. "We've had some great recipients - Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Steve McNair. But when you talk about a class in general, this might be the greatest class that we've had when you talk about the star power that we have."
The honorees, voted on by their respective teammates, have persevered through injuries, illnesses or personal tragedies.
Gronkowski and Webb, who played most of 2014 with a nerve issue in his back, and former Philadelphia Eagle and current Kansas City Chief wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, have come back from numerous injuries.
Linebacker Mark Herzlich, the New York Giants' honoree, is preparing for his fifth NFL season after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer while he was at Boston College. The Houston Texans' representative, offensive lineman David Quessenberry didn't play last season after being diagnosed with lymphoma.
Defensive lineman Devon Still, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals, drew inspiration from his young daughter, Leah, who is battling cancer, and tight end Greg Olsen, the Carolina Panthers' honoree, has done the same from his son, T.J., who has a heart syndrome that has required multiple surgeries.