SI.com interviewed a number of former Sportsman on what the honor meant to them. Here SI.com's Ben Glicksman speaks with Curt Schilling, who shared the honor with Randy Johnson in 2001.
SI.com: What was your reaction to being named Sportsman of the Year?
Schilling: You remember the period of time around all of that. The World Series ended in November for the first time ever because of 9/11. All the things that were happening at the time, it was a really charged atmosphere. But I was stunned. I was shocked. I think that whole story of the World Series was a much bigger thing than just the seven games we played. I think that there was a message sent globally about this country and baseball was the centerpiece of that message.
SI.com: Your Sportsmen story focused on the dynamic between you and Randy Johnson leading the Diamondbacks to the World Series. How did you help each other to become so successful?
Schilling: I can't speak for Randy. I just know that from the day that I stepped into that clubhouse, Randy pushed me to be better than I was before. He set the bar. For me, it was trying to reach higher than I've ever reached before. That year, and the following year, I did some things that I've never done before or since because I was able to watch him and be impacted by him.
SI.com: Your relationship with your father is also a theme of the piece. What did winning that World Series and Sportsman of the Year mean to you in that regard?
Schilling: It didn't have to do with how good of a player you were, it had more to do with what kind of person you were, that a guy embodied all of the things that my dad believed in...The SI award, I don't think it really resonated with me, the meaning, until I was at the ceremony and I met Muhammad Ali. Muhammad was a generation-crossing, world-changing athlete. To know that I was receiving an award that had honored him previously, that's when I went, wow, this is a big deal. This does have far bigger meaning and impact than just on the baseball field.
SI.com: Nine years later, how do you feel about receiving the honor? Has its importance grown or diminished with time?
Schilling: No. It still sits in a prominent place in my house and it's still something that elicits a lot of conversation. I'm very proud that I was able to be a part of that. I recognize that that recognition, in both cases, in '01 and '04, was dependent on a lot of people. Baseball is not a sport you can achieve individually. I don't think this award, when you get to the core of it, is something that an individual earns. There's a laundry list of people behind the scenes that have made it possible for the athlete to be in that position. The god-given ability that you're given to use, it speaks as much about who and what I was and was around, and the crowd of people that I chose to live my life with, as it does about me.
SI.com: Define the role of Sportsman. Does it extend beyond performance on the playing field?
Schilling: I don't think it's any different than I feel the role of the athlete is today. Charles Barkley was very comfortable saying that athletes are not role models. I respectfully disagree. I think athletes have a unique opportunity, and then when you get elevated to the pantheon of Sportsman of the Year, I think that becomes potentially a global stage.
SI.com: Did you read Sports Illustrated growing up?
Schilling: I lived by it. One of the walls of my bedroom was a collage of about 15 years of baseball photos. I would cut out the baseball pictures from every issue and I had this huge montage of thousands of pictures.
SI.com: Did you ever have any thoughts on who was named Sportsman of the Year?
Schilling: The Sportsman honor is almost like Time's Man of the Year -- they are always looking for an angle that's unique and different. It always tended to be somebody that told a message far bigger than their athletic achievement. I always thought that was pretty cool.
SI.com: You were also named co-Sportsman of the Year with your entire Red Sox team after you won the 2004 World Series. Was be named in 2004 similar to 2001?
Schilling: The 2004 honor was the very same thing. I came here to help this team win a World Series that hadn't done it in 86 years, and I was a part of a special group of guys that did something that would never be done again. The awards are the same. They represent as much a group of people that I was allowed to play with as they do anything individually.
SI.com: Which current athletes do you feel best embody the spirit of Sportsman of the Year?
Schilling: I've always been a Derek Jeter fan...Roy Halladay, I've always been a huge fan...I know this might not be popular, but I would really like to see Michael Vick come full circle and prove to people that you can make some bad decisions and still live a productive life and make other people's lives better.
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