DALLAS (FWAA) – Arkansas' D.J. Williams is the
first weekly nominee for the
2009 FedEx Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage
Award, to be announced at the end of the season. Williams, a
junior tight end from Little Rock, Ark., has overcome a childhood
dominated by an abusive, drug-addicted father to excel in the classroom,
the community and on the field.
Williams' father, David Williams, is currently serving time in
a Texas prison. But D.J. Williams' early memories are of fearing
a father who, beset by depression and hooked on crack cocaine, regularly
beat and abused his mother.
"I feared for my mother's life," Vanessa Williams, D.J.'s older
sister, recently told espn.com. "If we hadn't gotten out of there,
she probably wouldn't have made it."
Ten years ago this month, Vicky Williams took Vanessa, Valerie
and D.J. and fled their home in a Dallas suburb. When officials
at a local shelter for battered women suggested they leave the state,
Vicky showed D.J. a map and asked the 11-year-old where he wanted
to go. He chose Little Rock, where they lived in a shelter for battered
women for several months, but have made a new life.
Williams was an all-SEC
selection and a Mackey Award semifinalist in 2008, when he led the
Razorbacks in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches. He's
expected to be a key cog in Bobby Petrino's upgraded passing attack.
He's one of the football program's best students, and has taken
on leadership roles in community service and other areas.
"When things get tough for me, whether it's on the football field
or anywhere else, I just think about what my mom's gone through
and the great things football has brought me," Williams told espn.com.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to give back to her and give back to others.
I want moms and kids out there who are going through what we went
through to know that there is a way out.
"Look at us. We've come from living in a shelter and wearing
hand-me-down clothes to me standing in front of 80,000-plus almost
every Saturday just to watch me play football. Even when you think
all hope is lost, dreams do come true."
the fourth straight year, the Football Writers Association of America
and the FedEx Orange Bowl will announce a weekly nominee each Wednesday
during the season. A blue-ribbon panel will determine the winner
from all of the nominees. The winner of the FedEx Orange Bowl/FWAA
Courage Award will be announced in December and be presented with
The Courage Award was created by ESPN The Magazine's senior writer
Gene Wojciechowski, also a FWAA member. A select group of writers
from the FWAA vote on the winner each year. The requirements for
nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including
overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster
or living through hardship.
Previous winners of the FWAA's Courage Award are Tulsa's Wilson
Holloway (2008), Navy's Zerbin Singleton (2007), Clemson's Ray Ray
McElrathbey (2006), the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis' Haracio
Colen (2004), San Jose State's Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo's William
The Orange Bowl Committee is a not-for-profit, 330-member,
primarily-volunteer organization. It is a self-sustaining, independent
organization that supports and produces activities and events that
enhance the image, economy and culture of South Florida . The Orange
Bowl Festival features a year-round schedule of events culminating
with the FedEx Orange Bowl on January 5, 2010. In 2013, the OBC
will again double-host both the FedEx Orange Bowl and the BCS National
Championship. Other OBC core events include the MetroPCS Orange
Bowl Basketball Classic, Orange Bowl Youth Football Alliance, Orange
Bowl International Tennis Championships and Orange Bowl Sailing
Regatta Series. For more information on the 2009-10 Orange Bowl
Festival and its events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities
through the Ambassador Program, log on to
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization
founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,100 men and women who cover college football
for a living. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists,
as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works
to govern areas that include gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America
team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve
Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-713-6198.
2009 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
• Sept. 23: D.J. Williams, Arkansas
• Sept. 30: Mark Herzlich, Boston College
• Oct. 7: Darius Nall, UCF
• Oct. 14: Ricky Rosas, USC
• Oct. 21: Derrick Coleman, UCLA
• Oct. 28: Connecticut Huskies
• Nov. 4: Antoine "Shaky" Smithson, Utah
• Nov. 11: Dan Potokar, Ohio State
• Nov. 18: Thomas "Rock" Roggeman, East Carolina