Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett capped the best year of his NFL career by being named the Male Sports Star of the Year at the 81st annual MTR Western Seattle Sports Star of the Year awards show Wednesday night.
Bennett, who had a career-high 10.0 sacks in 2015 and earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time, is the fourth straight Seahawks player to earn the honor.
Bennett began his acceptance speech by thanking his wife, Pele, who he has been dating since high school, saying, "She's definitely the MVP of my life."
Bennett, who was seated next to Washington Governor Jay Inslee, called the award special because it was a Seattle award, saying, "I think I embody everything that the city of Seattle is—hard working and dedicated to everything they do. I just love the Seahawks and love this city."
The Seahawks were also nominated for Sports Story of the Year for their wild second-half comeback in the NFC championship victory over the Green Bay Packers, but that award went to the University of Washington men's crew team, which won a fifth consecutive national title last year.
Seahawks punter Jon Ryan, who played a big role in that NFC championship game comeback, throwing a touchdown pass to Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal, presented the award, and while he was at it, he playfully addressed his pending free agency.
"I want to announce that this afternoon I signed a contract with the Seattle Seahawks," Ryan said. "Yeah, I signed it, now I just need them to sign it. It was a really lucrative deal too."
Ryan acknowledged that he doesn't know what will happen next, but said he will always consider himself a Seahawk.
"I've been here for eight years playing for the Seahawks, and it has been the best eight years of my life," he said. "The people in Seattle, the people in Washington, the people in the Pacific Northwest have accepted a fair-skinned, freckle-faced redheaded kid from Canada with a speech impediment who punts a football, and made him feel like a super star… You guys are the greatest fans in the world."
Bennett won Male Sports Star of the Year honors over Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey, Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz, Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk, Seattle University men's soccer coach Peter Fewing and University of Washington golfer Cheng-Tsung Pan.
Bennett's win for his 2015 season makes it four straight such honors for the Seahawks, following Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch as recent winners. Previous Seahawks winners of the award are running back Curt Warner (1983), head coach Chuck Knox (1984), receiver Steve Largent (1985), linebacker Fredd Young (1987), fullback John L. Williams (1988), quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (2003), running back Shaun Alexander (2005) and receiver Bobby Engram (2007).
Former Seahawks quarterback Warren Moon, who is now a member of the team's radio broadcast team, won the Royal Brougham Legend Award, which is "given to an individual for a lifetime of achievement in sports and exemplifies the spirit of our state."
Moon, the first football player to win the Royal Brougham Legend Award, was also named Male Sports Star of the Year for leading the 1977 Huskies to a Rose Bowl victory over Michigan, a game in which Moon was named player of the game.
Moon joked that the last time he was up for one of these awards, "I was up against a horse— Seattle Slew. I thought, 'What if I lose to a horse?'"
Moon went on to thank, among others, former Husky coach Don James, "the man who believed in me coming out of junior college," former Edmonton Eskimos coach Hugh Campbell.
Ginger Ackerley, who with her late husband Barry owned the Seattle Sonics for 18 years, won the Paul Allen Award, which is given to "an individual who has made a significant or compelling philanthropic contribution." Through their foundation, the Ackerleys have provided early-education grants for nearly 20 years.
The night also included ESPN's Kenny Mayne talking about Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who announced his retirement on Twitter during Super Bowl 50.
"I think Marshawn hit send too early," Mayne joked.
Mayne talked about Lynch winning one Super Bowl and nearly winning another, then told the crowd it was time to get over the Super Bowl XLIX loss once and for all. To drive the point home, Mayne had two young children, one wearing a Lynch jersey and one wearing a Russell Wilson jersey, join him on stage. The young "Wilson" told Mayne he was going to "give the ball to Marshawn," then handed off to junior "Lynch," who dived onto a mat for a touchdown, drawing big cheers.