There are only a few qualifications for WNST’s annual “Local Sports Person of the Year” award.
First, the person must be local. They must be an athlete, coach or front office member for a pro, college or high school team in the state of Maryland. Individual sport athletes who represent the state of Maryland also qualify.
Second, the person must stand out from other people over the course of the 12 calendar months. The accomplishments of that individual must be comparable to if not greater than the accomplishments of others in the area.
And finally, that person’s year must stand out from other years during their tenure/career in the area.
With those qualifications in mind it wasn’t difficult to determine candidates for the honor in 2011. Baltimore Ravens LB Terrell Suggs & RB Ray Rice, Former University of Maryland Terrapins basketball coach Gary Williams, University of Maryland lacrosse coach John Tillman and Kentucky Derby winning Shackleford trainer Graham Motion all seemed to be quality candidates.
In the end, determining a winner wasn’t particularly difficult.
Rob Ambrose arrived as the head football coach at Towson University with an introductory press conference in January 2009. At that introductory press conference, Ambrose boldly called for everyone connected to the Tigers to get on board with a program that hadn’t finished with more than seven overall wins or an above .500 record in conference play since the turn of the century.
“This is for everyone in the room and everyone watching and everyone that is going to read about this in the newspaper. This is not about me – not at all. It’s about the players in this room and it’s about all of you. It’s about all of the people outside this room – the community and the faculty and the fans and the students and the rest of the state that hasn’t figured it out yet. It’s our job to take this program and make it the program that we know it can be and know that it is supposed to be and it’s about time. So, tell your friends and your neighbors and your buddies. Call them all up. They’re invited. They’re all invited to this beautiful new house (Johnny Unitas® Stadium) and let’s turn this thing around and win some ball games.”
Through his first two seasons, any progress made in the football program wasn’t particularly apparent to the general public. Ambrose’s Tigers compiled a 3-19 record over those trying seasons and it was hard to imagine Ambrose was really making progress at his alma mater.
But something strange happened when I bumped into Rob Ambrose at CAA Media Day this summer at M&T Bank Stadium. Ambrose (and everyone around the Towson football program) was talking about word they hadn’t used much during the two previous seasons.
That word was “winning”. It had nothing to do with Charlie Sheen. I’ll let Coach Ambrose describe it himself…