ESPYS: Pat Summitt
LOS ANGELES — Pat Summitt figures her courage was born somewhere on a Tennessee farm, between milking cows and shooting hoops in a barn loft.
"Growing up on a dairy farm, milking at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., my brothers made me very tough," Summitt said on the red carpet for the ESPY awards, where she received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for her bravery on and off the court during the televised event Wednesday night.
Former football Vol Peyton Manning presented Summitt her award, referring to her as "a mentor and a friend."
Almost a year ago, Summitt announced she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. Despite that, she continued coaching the Lady Vols before stepping away from her head coach role last spring.
A biographical video introducing Summitt recalled her six miscarriages, a divorce and her declining health, as well as her unparalleled career victories.
Summitt wrapped up her career with 1,098 wins in 1,306 games coaching in AIAW and NCAA Division I play.
Summitt was the center of attention Wednesday night, walking the red carpet with her son, Tyler Summitt, and dressed in a dark blue sparkling jacket with pants.
Only someone of Summitt's stature could pull off being the center of attention at such a star-studded event that included everyone from rapper Nas to pro football superstar Tim Tebow to Eli Manning to New York Knicks breakthrough Jeremy Lin.
Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey gave Summitt her due beyond the court. "Pat is not only a great coach. She is a mother. She is a former player. She embodies everything that is good in women's basketball," Mulkey said.
"She is a fierce competitor. She is open and brave about everything happening with her."
The Lady Bears defeated the Lady Vols in the Elite Eight this past season.
Summitt said she was eager to accept the award.
But in a career that has Summitt earning virtually a different honor on what seems like a daily basis, where does she place the Arthur Ashe Award?
"It means everything," Summitt said. "The Arthur Ashe Award is very dear to my heart.
"I'm going to be a fighter, like he was a fighter."
Part of her courage comes from her loved ones.
"I have a lot of people with me today who are dear to me. I have been so blessed to have so many people give me so many great awards. I am very humbled because of it," she said, smiling.
"We are very fortunate to be here tonight and to receive this award."
At the top of her list of supporters is her son.
"Tyler has been my rock. He always has been," she said.
Tyler Summitt, who played basketball for UT, is now an assistant women's coach at Marquette.
Of his mother, Tyler said, "She's always been so tough. It's always been how she's been."
Neither Tyler nor his mother could have dreamed they'd be in Los Angeles, walking a red carpet and taking in the night. As Pat Summitt walked the red carpet, her famous glassy stare and sharpness from the coaching bench were replaced with smiles and grace.
"I couldn't even imagine it. It is what it is," she said. "I'm just glad to be here with my friends."