The 54th annual Red Smith Sports Awards Banquet in Downtown Appleton was a night to remember.
Hundreds were welcomed into the Red Lion Paper Valley Hotel banquet hall to honor the careers of great sports figures and support the Red Smith Committee’s mission of helping young kids in the Valley become leaders.
Chi-Chi and Dr. Leckrone were the keynote speakers of the evening, but the stage was shared with many prominent local sports personalities including coaches from the Wisconsin Herd, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Green Bay Gamblers, UW-Madison Basketball team, including Alondo Tucker, and UW-Green Bay.
Scheels Sports “Nice Guy” Award winner, legendary pro-golfer and humanitarian Chi-Chi Rodríguez, brought down the house with a litany of one-liners to open the night.
Rodríguez told stories about his life in such detail you would have thought they happened just yesterday, and when the host said it was time to wrap-up Chi-Chi joked that the crowd wasn’t ready to see him go…and he was probably right.
A pause in Chi-Chi’s playfulness came when he became emotional about the school he built in Florida.
Many know about Chi-Chi’s work on the golf course, but it’s his humanitarian efforts that mean the most to him.
Local 5’s Digital Manager Josh Rose spoke with Chi-Chi live on Facebook following an inspirational speech to Appleton West students earlier Tuesday morning:
Dr. Mike Leckrone
Red Smith Award winner Dr. Mike Leckrone, UW-Madison’s legendary marching band director, entered the banquet in grand fashion (Facebook video embedded below).
In August of 2018 Dr. Leckrone announced his retirement, but after 50 years of making the UW Marching Band what it is today the hall at Appleton’s Paper Valley Hotel honored the career of a man that will be felt for generations to come.
The Marching Band Director shared stories about how he started the, “When you say Wisconsin, you’ve said it all,” catch-phrase, as well as how the 5th Quarter came about.
A collective moment of reflection came from the crowd as Leckrone discussed his late wife.
Leckrone was married for 62 years and, as he light-heartedly shared, started dating his wife in 7th grade.
After walking through some of Leckrone’s most memorable moments, including flying high above a crowd during a show, marching in the Rose Bowl Parade, and how he was the first – and last – marching band director in history to ride an elephant onto the field (something about how the elephant consecrated the 50 yard line), he closed the evening in appropriate fashion…a Red Smith Banquet 5th Quarter.
Local 5’s Kris Schuller caught up with the music man himself at Kimberly High School Tuesday morning before the banquet.
Packers CEO and President Mark Murphy talked about parting ways with Mike McCarthy, the hiring process of Matt LaFleur, the potential of playing in London, and how bad he wants to get the NFL Draft to Green Bay.
Mark Murphy speaking at the @RedSmithBanquet on the potential of the @packers playing in London: “We would love to play in London but we won’t give up a home game…its a $15 million economic impact.”
On the NFL draft:
“We’re going to do everything we can to get it here.” pic.twitter.com/OOFxxuy1WD— WFRV Local 5 (@WFRVLocal5) January 16, 2019
Former Packers Safety Nick Collins spoke about the injury that ended his career and the day he was drafted, including a tongue-in-cheek anecdote at the excitement, or lack-there-of, in Ted Thompson’s voice when he told Nick the Packers were going to bring him to Green Bay.
Former @packers safety Nick Collins talks about what it was like getting the call to be drafted…including the excitment in Ted Thompson’s voice 🤣 @RedSmithBanquet #redsmithbanquet #nickcollins pic.twitter.com/9rCRRIXUBS— WFRV Local 5 (@WFRVLocal5) January 16, 2019