Davitt Walsh receiving his award from Jim McGuinness and host Gráinne Seoige.
The footballer from Kerrykeel's bravery and quick-thinking saved a four months old baby after a car slipped off the pier at Buncrana last March.
Five people died in the tragedy. Derry woman Louise James lost her partner Sean and two sons Mark and Evan, her mother Ruth and sister Jodie-Lee.
Through his extreme bravery, courage and initiative, Davitt Walsh, who dove into the water and swam out to the car, managed to save the life of Louise's baby daughter, Rioghnach-Ann.
As he received the Rehab People of the Year Award in a ceremony broadcast on RTÉ on Saturday night, host Gráinne Seoige told the visibly upset young hero, "I can see this doesn't sit easily on your shoulders."
He replied, "It doesn't. I do try to take a bit of the silver lining out of it but, at the end of the day, it's very difficult for me. Five people lost their lives. Day to day, it's still very difficult."
Former Donegal GAA manager Jim McGuiness, who recalled having trained Davitt Walsh many years ago, told him, "The most important thing is that there is a person on the planet that wouldn't be on the planet other than for the person here and I think that's very special thing."