Football Writers Association of America Oct. 12, 2011
For Immediate Release
Contact: George Schroeder
Senior tight end returns from devastating knee injury
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DALLAS (FWAA) Texas' Blaine Irby is the weekly nominee for the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award, to be announced at the end of the season. Irby, a senior tight end from Camarillo, Calif., has returned to football after a gruesome injury three years ago left doctors uncertain whether he would ever walk normally again.


Once considered the heir-apparent in Texas' line of talented tight ends, Irby's career was derailed in September 2008 when he suffered a devastating knee injury when hit by a Rice defender.

Kenny Boyd, Texas' head athletic trainer, told the San Antonio Express-News the injury was "limb-threatening." Irby's knee was dislocated. The ACL, LCL, meniscus and surrounding cartilage were torn. After surgery and rehab, Irby continued to suffer from nerve damage, which prevented his right foot from functioning properly.

Irby underwent three surgeries. The nerves didn't begin to fire until December 2009, about 15 months after the injury. Irby had finally come to terms with not playing football again, but one day he suddenly felt a twitch in his right foot.

"I did it probably a thousand times that night," he said.

It took much more rehab, and Irby had to talk Texas coach Mack Brown into allowing him to play again, but he returned this fall.

"If you call having less than a 5 percent chance to walk normally and two years later returning to the field being a miracle, then I would say it was a miracle," Boyd said.

Ironically, the Longhorns' first game was against Rice. Irby started against the Owls, and he has played in Texas' first five games. He had two catches for 12 last week against Oklahoma his first receptions since the injury.

"I'm glad to be back," Irby said. "It's been a long process. It's been a really long road, but I'm just glad to be back with my teammates."

For the sixth straight year, the Football Writers Association of America and the Discover Orange Bowl will announce a weekly nominee for the Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award each Wednesday during the season. A blue-ribbon panel will determine the award's recipient from those weekly nominees. The recipient of the Courage Award will be announced in December and presented with the trophy in conjunction with this year's Discover Orange Bowl.

The Courage Award was created by ESPN The Magazine's senior writer Gene Wojciechowski, also an FWAA member. A select group of FWAA members vote on the recipient 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 Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand (2010), the University of Connecticut football team (2009), 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 Bratton (2002).

The Orange Bowl Committee is a 341-member, primarily-volunteer non-profit sports organization that promotes and serves the South Florida community. The Orange Bowl Festival features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the Discover Orange Bowl on January 4, 2012. Other OBC core events include the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, Orange Bowl Youth Football Alliance presented by Sports Authority, Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, Orange Bowl Sailing Regatta Series and Orange Bowl Paddle Championships. For more information on the 2011-12 Orange Bowl Festival and its events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program, visit

The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,200 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 or 972-713-6198.

2011 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
Sept. 28: Shane Blissard and Robbie Stewart, Middle Tennessee
Oct. 5: Carson Tinker, Alabama
Oct. 12: Blaine Irby, Texas
Oct. 19: David Lerner, Florida
Oct. 26: Mike James, Miami
Nov. 2: Arthur Ray Jr., Michigan State
Nov. 16: Shane Simpson and Jack Long, Missouri Western State

Related link:
Orange Bowl Courage Award