DALLAS (FWAA) – Michigan State's Arthur Ray Jr.
is the weekly nominee for the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA
Courage Award, to be announced at the end of the season. Ray,
a senior offensive lineman from Chicago, has returned to football
this season, four years after bone cancer derailed his career.
Ray signed with Michigan State as a highly recruited lineman
from Chicago's Mount Carmel High School in 2007, but was soon diagnosed
with cancer in his left leg. Through nine surgeries – including
four bone grafts – countless rounds of chemotherapy and several
outbreaks of infection, he was unable to practice or play. For almost
two years, he was unable to walk without crutches.
He had been given a medical disqualification and remained on
scholarship with Michigan State. But last April, doctors cleared
him to resume football.
"I was in class, and I just cried tears of joy," Ray told the
Associated Press. "It felt so good because it just represents so
much now. I just feel like I have to represent everybody that's
still dealing with bad things, like chemo."
Still, practicing was one thing; playing quite another. On Sept.
3, when the Spartans opened the season against Youngstown State,
starting left guard Joel Foreman – a fifth-year senior and a team
co-captain – asked Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio if he could
give up his position to his friend. Foreman had started 22 straight
games and 36 of 38 in his career.
During a team meal on the eve of the opener, Dantonio asked Ray
to stand, then said, according to the Detroit News: "Young man,
you are going to start your first college football game."
Ray participated in only the first play, but blocked two players.
"I know he probably thinks it was powerful for him, but it was
just as powerful for me to watch him out there," Foreman said. "It's
something he deserves and something he earned. It's not something
Said Ray: "I've been waiting for this moment for so long, it
was just a great feeling. Actually, I had butterflies for about
two hours before the game. Man, I missed that feeling for so long."
He has since played against Florida Atlantic and continues to
practice with the goal of earning more playing time.
"If anybody's a walking miracle," Ray said, "you're looking at
him. A lot of people told me to turn around and do other things,
and I never really listened to them. Football's always been my heart
and my passion."
Said Dantonio: "It … gives hope to everybody who has been in
any kind of tough situation in their life, that if you can keep
pushing and push through adversity you've got a chance."
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
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
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 email@example.com or 972-713-6198.
2011 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
• Sept. 28: Shane Blissard and Robbie Stewart, Middle
• 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
• Orange Bowl Courage Award