The San Francisco 49ers announced that defensive tackle Justin Smith has been chosen by his teammates as the 2010 Ed Block Courage Award recipient. The award, which is given annually to the player that exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage, is the first for Smith. The starting defensive tackle also symbolizes professionalism, great strength, dedication and serves as a community role model for others, which are requirements to receive the award.
A 10-year veteran, Smith is the epitome of resilience, having put together 154 consecutive starts, dating back to his rookie year, in 2001. The current streak of 154 straight starts ranks sixth among all NFL players, third among defensive players and first among defensive linemen. A relentless and explosive defender, Smith is once again among the team leaders in tackles and sacks (5.5), while ranking first on the team in quarterback pressures and hits. Earlier this week, he was named the team's Hazeltine Iron Man Award, which is given annually to the most courageous and inspirational defensive player as voted upon by the 49ers coaches.
Smith was originally a first round (4th pick overall) draft choice by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001 out of the University of Missouri. He made an immediate impact to the 49ers defense upon joining the team as an unrestricted free agent in 2008, ranking 4th on the team in tackles (104), 2nd in sacks (7.0) and 1st in QB pressures (57). A year later, Smith earned his first Pro Bowl honor after leading the team in quarterback pressures (78) and hits (52), while ranking 2nd in sacks (6.0).
In late November of this year, Smith earned the team's Perry/Yonamine Unity Award as voted upon his teammates. The award is presented to the 49ers player who exhibits an exceptional commitment to promoting unity with the team and in their community. It is named for the former 49ers players and pioneers of unity and diversity, Joe "The Jet" Perry and Wally Yonamine. In honor of his achievements, the San Francisco 49ers Foundation made a $10,000 contribution on behalf of Smith to Okizu to help provide peer support, respite, mentoring, and recreational programs to meet the needs of all members of families affected by childhood cancer.
The Ed Block Courage Award is named after Ed Block, the former head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts of 23 years. Block was a pioneer in his profession and a respected humanitarian whose most passionate cause was helping children of abuse. The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation promotes the prevention of child abuse by raising awareness of the epidemic and assisting agencies who provide for the care and treatment of abused children in communities throughout the National Football League (NFL). The Edgewood Center for Children & Families in San Francisco is the local Courage House supported by the San Francisco 49ers.
All 32 Ed Block Courage Award winners will be honored at an event in Baltimore, MD, on March 9, 2010. For more information, visit www.edblock.org.