James Coppinger described his 'greatest honour' to date after being officially presented with the Freedom of Doncaster.
Rovers’ all-time leading appearance maker was bestowed the award at a ceremony at the Eco-Power Stadium on Tuesday with mayor Ros Jones, civic mayor Richard Allen Jones and council chief executive Damian Allen on hand to complete the formalities.
Coppinger has been laden with prizes throughout his career and was presented with the Sir Tom Finney Award for exceptional service to the Football League last year.
And he described the Freedom of Doncaster - the highest award a borough resident can achieve - as the biggest honour of his life.
“Doncaster gave me the opportunity to come here and almost kick-start my career," the 41-year-old said.
“I always go back to you needing an opportunity to deliver and Doncaster gave that to me.
“I got married in Doncaster. Both my boys were born in Doncaster. My wife worked at DRI.
“It will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ve spent half my life here.
“I’ll always be grateful to special people, in this room, to managers, players and fans that have brought me in and made me one of their own.
“This is an absolute massive honour for me and I’m so grateful.”
Coppinger had been nominated for the award last year to mark his retirement from playing after 17 years with Rovers, and it was passed through the council with unanimous approval.
The nomination recognised his tremendous contribution to Rovers. On the pitch he twice claimed promotion to the Championship - once via the play-offs and then as League One champions - as well as winning promotion from League Two and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
But off the pitch, his impact on the community of the borough has been tremendous also. As an ambassador for the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), he has raised awareness of mental health as well as promoting the importance of a correct mentality among players as part of his Pro Mindset mentoring business.
Coppinger was also part of the Inca Trail hike in 2011 where he and team mates raised more than £50,000 for Save The Children and the NSPCC.
Doncaster’s elected mayor Jones said: “James has enjoyed a wonderful career as a footballer and made a fantastic mark on Doncaster Rovers.
“But more importantly it is about the inspiration and aspiration he has created for our young people in all different forms of life. It is about what he has done for the borough while he has been here.
“This is the highest honour we can bestow on an individual and that is how high esteem in which he is held.
“We want great inspirational people like James who get our young people on the right track.”