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Weekend marked by awards, special times

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

June 30
I really enjoyed a special weekend. Friday night was a treat, as I addressed 800 scholar-athletes at the Institute of International Sport, headed by former Trinity College coach Dan Doyle. It featured youngsters who have excelled in the classroom as well as arts and crafts.

I followed former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who spoke to the crowd the night before. Giuliani spoke about leadership.

I told the student-athletes that they should chase their dreams and that they had the advantage of knowing the importance of knowledge.
I was thrilled to share the microphone with an incredible athlete I've been in awe of, former two-time Olympic gold medal decathlete Bob Mathias. He won the gold in 1948 and '52. I felt that the youngsters didn't get it, didn't understand how great an athlete Mathias was. I remember him on the Wheaties box. I have the ultimate respect for him.

I was honored with the organization's first-ever Ethics and Sportsmanship in Sports Media Award. I told the student-athletes that they should chase their dreams and that they had the advantage of knowing the importance of knowledge. I told them the late, great Arthur Ashe said that knowledge is power!

I had never been to Newport, Rhode Island before, and I had quite a blast. I attended St. Mary's church, where John F. Kennedy and Jackie Onassis got married. We took a tour of Ocean Drive and saw The Breakers, a house owned by the Vanderbilts with all sorts of marble and gold on 15 acres. It's a trip I will always treasure.

We also got to eat at several phenomenal places, including the Black Pearl right on the wharf. We had a sensational dinner at Sardella's Italian Restaurant in Newport with Richard Sardella himself, the mayor of Newport and the former associate athletic director at Brown. He told me a great story about ESPN's Chris Berman was a Brown student and a student broadcaster for Brown's baseball team. Apparently, Berman interviewed Sardella during one seventh-inning stretch and told him that hardly anyone would hear the interview -- but the student radio station was broadcast into all the dorms at Brown!

Then it was off to Indianapolis to attend a banquet at Conseco Fieldhouse, sponsored by the Indianapolis Sports Corporation and Black Expo to raise funds for the Youth Links of Indiana. That organization raises money for various charities aiding inner-city youth.

I was honored to receive the prestigious National Pathfinder Award. It was a memorable evening, as I shared the moment with NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey, who received the Indiana Pathfinder Award, and Dan Marino, who was the PeyBack Award recipient.

It was so special as over 800 people gathered for the event. It was touching to hear NFL quarterback Peyton Manning speak. I told his dad, Archie, that he should bottle what he has produced because his son is the full package.

Marino has raised millions to help charities in the Miami area and he's a quality person. He's like the David Robinsons and Tim Duncans of the world -- people who understand about being good people as well as good athletes, remembering where they came from.

I sat with former Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton, NCAA president Myles Brand and executive VP Tom Jernstedt, whose wife Kris did a fantastic job and helped put on a wonderful evening. We had a good discussion about academics and athletics.

To know my name was there with so many great previous winners of the Pathfinder Award -- like John Wooden, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Larry Bird, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Bill Russell -- it was awesome, baby, with a capital A! I was proud that a donation was made in my name to the Jimmy V Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota.

It was a night and a weekend to remember.

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