State's Top Pro?

Balloting is currently underway by members of the Alabama Sports Writers Association to choose the Professional Athlete of the Year for 2004. Although the state has very few professional teams (minor league baseball, arena football, etc.), there are professional athletes who are either natives of the state or who played college athletics in Alabama, and they are the primary candidates.

I didn't have any problem voting for Shaun Alexander for this year's award. Alexander, a former Alabama Crimson Tide star who won the award for 2001 and for last year, had a sensational season for the Seattle Seahawks. He was second (by a controversial yard) in the NFL in rushing with 1,696 yards and scored 16 touchdowns.

The only other former Alabama player to be nominated was Alexander's former Crimson Tide teammate, Chris Samuels, now playing for the Washington Redskins. Samuels beat out Alexander for the ASWA's Amateur Athlete of the Year Award following the 1999 season.

Other nominees are pro golfer Stewart Cink of Florence, former Auburn pitcher Tim Hudson who played for Oakland last year, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens of Alexander City, and San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy of Mobile.

Another top nominee is the 2002 winner. He is Ben Wallace of White Hall, now playing for the Detroit Pistons. He was instrumental in the Pistons' 2004 NBA championship and in their return to the playoffs this year. He was selected for the NBA all-star game and was second in the NBA in rebounding. But he gets most of his acclaim for defense, named the defensive player of the year in the NBA two years in a row. And that's the reason I didn't vote for him this year. I figure he's only competing against two or three pro basketball players for defensive honors.

The Alabama Sports Writers Association has been in existence for about 35 years. The organization is best known for doing all the polls and all-star selections in football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball at the prep level. But the organization also chooses athletes of the year at the junior college, small college, amateur and professional levels.

Although Mr. Football and Mr. and Miss Basketball awards were made at special awards banquets during championship weeks of those events, the Amateur, Professional, Junior College, Small College Mr. Baseball, and Miss Softball awards will be presented when the ASWA has its annual convention in Tuscaloosa June 13-14.

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