Football Writers Association of America Oct. 19, 2011
For Immediate Release
Contact: George Schroeder
Punter earns starting job while battling Crohn's disease
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DALLAS (FWAA) Florida's David Lerner is the weekly nominee for the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award, to be announced at the end of the season. Lerner, a senior punter from Gainesville, Fla., won a starting job despite being diagnosed last summer with Crohn's disease.


Lerner did not see action in his first three seasons with the Gators. The senior expected to battle for a starting job in August, but last July, he began experiencing pain and loss of appetite and was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a gastrointestinal disorder afflicts the digestive tract. Lerner lost 15 pounds in the weeks after the diagnosis, underwent regular IV infusions and occasionally was restricted to an all-liquid diet.

Despite that, he participated in fall camp with the Gators, where he battled for the job. Lerner, a walk-on, was awarded a scholarship in August. He has started six of seven games this season.

"It's an inspiration to me watching him and how he's handling himself," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "Tough times don't last, tough people do. He's a tough young man."

Lerner is averaging 38.3 yards per punt, with seven punts downed inside opponents' 20-yard line.

"There's never been a time in my life where I have been more happy to go to practice and be around the guys," Lerner told the Orlando Sentinel, "even just to get screamed at."

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