ARLINGTON, Texas– The annual Cowboys kickoff luncheon is one of the first opportunities for local fans and team sponsors to get an up close look at the players and coaches that will make up the current team.
While Wednesday's luncheon provided just that, it was also a chance to pay tribute to one of the key members of this event every year.
The team has formed quite a relationship with Happy Hill Farm, a Christian-based boarding school on a 500-acre campus in Granbury, Texas, that has been the main beneficiary of the yearly event, which gives the Cowboys' sponsors a front-row seat at the team as it enters a new season.
Just last week, Ed Shipman, the founder of Happy Hill Farm, passed away due to congestive heart failure at the age of 84. Shipman and his wife, Gloria, virtually built the center from the ground up, developing it into a life-changing institution for disadvantaged or "at-risk" children.
[embeddedad0]Shipman established the Academy in 1975 and has now turned it into a family-run business. The Cowboys formed a partnership
The luncheon's host Brad Sham, the longtime radio voice of the Cowboys, described a "conundrum" to the audience, citing the Shipman's family request not to make a bigger deal of his passing.
"The Shipman family does not want this to be Ed Shipman memorial luncheon" Sham said. "But there's just no way we're going through this (luncheon) without making a big deal about the life and works of Ed Shipman. We're going to do both."
And with that, a detailed video that honored Shipman's life was played, showing interview clips from players past and present, such as Daryl Johnston, Chad Hennings to Jason Witten and Sean Lee. The video showed the commitment Shipman and his family made to develop Happy Hill Farm what it is today.
"The Shipmans touch lives. The Shipmans change lives," Sham again told the audience at AT&T Stadium. "Ed Shipman's body is no longer with us. His soul is and he's still changing and shaping lives."
After the video, the focused shifted back to football an upcoming season, which included an awards ceremony. Honorary Chair Cliff Harris, a Ring of Honor member, presented fellow safety Darren Woodson as the Tom Landry Award recipient. Sean Lee was voted by his teammates as the Ed Block Courage Award winner for his ability to return from a 2014 ACL injury and make the Pro Bowl last season.
The team also gave out team MVP awards, as Darren McFadden got the award for the offense, Lee was the Defensive MVP and Chris Jones and Dan Bailey split the award for special teams.
See highlights from the annual Cowboys Kickoff Luncheon at AT&T Stadium on August 31, 2016.