Chicago Bears Tight End Martellus Bennett was awarded the "Bear of the Year" Award at the 26th Annual Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards last night. He should get "Soundbite of the Year" as well. Bennett is the best sports soundbite in the city right now and probably the best Chicago sports interview since Adam Burish.
He's also the best Bears interview subject since Jim McMahon and he owned the room during his acceptance speech last night at the Hilton Chicago International Ballroom. The "Orange Dino" (one of his many nicknames) was hilarious, insightful and inspirational during his time on stage at the live awards ceremony hosted by David Kaplan.
The honorees chosen are top athletes from Chicago’s professional teams who have made considerable contributions to their teams and the Chicago community. Over $400,000 was raised benefiting the March of Dimes.
"The real reason we're here is for the kids," said Martellus Bennett encouraging children to be creative "because imagination is how children will come up with solutions to the problems that we have."
"I wanna lead by example, to be creative," continued Martysaurus Rex (I told you Martellus Bennett has like 40 nicknames).
"Where I'm from, you feel like you have to dribble a ball or catch a football to get out of the hood, but I want kids to know that you can get scholarships for creative writing, band, film, you can do all kinds of things."
As Martellus said, "it's frowned upon to be a creative guy and play sports," and "Everybody's BFF" is doing everything he can to change that.
This year’s honorees included:
Patrick Sharp (Blackhawk of the Year) Nazr Mohammed (Bull of the Year) Welington Castillo (Cub of the Year)
Nate Jones (White Sox of the Year) Mike Magee (Fire of the Year)
Stan Mikita (Lifetime Achievement) Alyssa Gialamas (Jim Corno Inspirational Athlete Award)
Martellus Bennett was the first award recipient to take the stage, and his speech ran the longest as he's someone who loves to talk. He certainly has a bright future in television and radio, if that's the path he chooses. During the NFL season, Bennett appeared Mondays from 5-5:30 pm on WSCR 670 The Score's Boers and Bernstein. It was appointment radio.
Bennett opened the evening with Hockey Hall of Famer Stan Mikita closing, perfectly book-ending the show. Due to health issues, Mikita was not made available to the media and his acceptance speech was delivered by his youngest daughter Jane Mikita.
Sharpie is obviously in Sochi right now representing Team USA at the Winter Olympics, so he sent a video message accepting the award.
Mohammed is a local product, from the Southside who prepped at Kenwood Academy, so it was extra special for him to receive this honor in his hometown.
"I didn't have a lot of opportunities growing up, so I try to provide those opportunities to people whenever I can," Mohammed said.
The night also featured a funny joke by Kaplan at the expense of the Wrigleyville Rooftop owners shot, something I always enjoy.
The Cubs honoree, Castillo, could develop into one of the better catchers in Major League Baseball this season.
"I feel really honored, it's very special to get this award. I have to work hard to get this and keep doing what I do," Castillo said during my exclusive interview with him before the show.
There was also a tribute to the late former CSN Chicago President Jim Corno, who passed in December.
"Jim Corno is my number one hero and I don't think there's anyone close," said Bill Barry, former March of Dimes Chairman.
Since the Awards started, over $11 million has been raised to benefit the March of Dimes said Mike Liederman, Producer of the CSN Sports Awards.
It was Corno's idea to champion the March of Dimes at the CSN Sports Awards. MOD strives to provide better pre-natal care, healthier babies and ending birth defects. Corno was as proud of the CSN Sports Awards as he was of anything that he accomplished during his life. According to David Kaplan, he would refer to the event as "our Super Bowl."
However, it was Martellus Bennett who stole the show.
His line for autographs and photo-opps was longer than everyone else's. He owned the room in tennis shoes and t-shirt underneath a sport coat. Bennett describes himself as someone who doesn't dress up. Although he may not be a "black tie" kind of guy, Bennett is certainly versatile.
He's written three children's books, has a book of short stories coming out in July, has created a website for children, recently released a rap demo tape, held an art show in the fall, draws cartoons, started foundations, designed shoes and more.
"Lately I just try to work with anyone with art or creativity or imagination," said Martellus Bennett.
"Because that's what my cause is and that's what children need more of and that's what we need more of as adults as well."
Bennett also discussed the coming out of Missouri Defensive end Michael Sam, and what it means to the NFL. Sam, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, is the first openly gay active football star. He's projected to be a mid round draft pick this May, and will likely become the first openly gay NFL player. Bennett talked about Sam's NFL Draft stock and how he might be received if he was picked by the Chicago Bears. Martellus Bennett also discussed the recruiting of his brother Michael Bennett from the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.
But Martellus' best lines probably came during his speech:
"I guess it's a huge honor that there's a lot of old white men in four button suits," said Martysaurus.
"That's always good, I always feel like I'm around a lot of money when I see the old men in four button suits. I brought several business cards, white men in four button suits. If you need new business cards I can design them for you, because that's what I do. I just have to charge you, but the fee I'm pretty sure you can afford it."
Martellus Bennett is a must follow on Twitter @MartysaurusRex
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent analyst on news talk radio; with regular segments on ESPN,NBC, CBS and Fox. A former NBC Chicago and Washington Times writer, he’s also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)
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